Damian Lillard and Trey Burke combine to win NBA Skills Challenge by a tenth of a second
Gerald Herbert, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS — After providing what had to be the most exciting finish in Skills Challenge history, Trey Burke will return to Utah with a championship trophy.
Well, maybe he will.
Only one golden basketball trophy was on display as Burke and Skills Challenge teammate Damian Lillard answered questions on the dais during a press conference after they edged Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams and Orlando’s Victor Oladipo by one-tenth of a second to win this All-Star Saturday competition.
“Since I already got one, I guess I’ll let him keep it,” Lillard, the 2013 Skills champ, said. “If we can’t decide, then maybe she should keep it.”
The “she” he referred to was Anna-Marie Spears, who received a $30,000 educational scholarship from the Taco Bell Foundation For Teens.
Then again, Spears might have to wrestle Sean Combs for the trophy. The popular entertainer, known as “Diddy,” just happened to be walking by Burke as the Jazz point guard carried the trophy en route to a photo session by the Smoothie King Center pressroom.
The rapper jokingly grabbed the trophy from Burke as cameras flashed.
"He looked like he was going to take off with it,” Burke said, smiling, after Diddy returned his hardware.
Burke had to do his own kind of taking off to clinch this win.
The Jazz guard and former Weber State star cruised out of the first round against Goran Dragic and Reggie Jackson.
Team Utah then had to weave, dribble, pass and shoot their way from one end of the court to the other faster than 45.3 seconds to beat Carter-Williams and Oladipo in the finals.
It didn’t appear that would happen after Lillard had to pass the basketball through a tire twice after missing on his first try and then Burke needed three shots to make one from the top of the key.
That left the Jazz rookie about five seconds to zig-zag down the court and make a layup.
“I started to hear the crowd, and you continue to glance up at the clock to see how much time you got,” Burke said. “I just tried to get there as quick as possible.”
Using a burst of speed, the smooth playmaker did just that.
Burke and Lillard finished with a time of 45.2 seconds, winning by the slightest margin possible.
“I looked up and thought it was tied," Burke said. “Damian told me that we ended up winning.”
It ended up being the only win for Lillard on his busy night. The 6-3 guard didn’t make it out of the first round of the 3-Point Contest and was edged by Toronto’s Terrence Ross in their mano-a-mano duel in the dunk contest despite a pretty sweet 180 reverse slam.
Lillard was the captain of the victorious Team Hill in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge and will make his All-Star debut Sunday night to cap off his record-setting five-event weekend.
“I was happy to just be invited to all of them and be able to compete in them,” he said, “and I wanted to win at least one.”
Burke had a much better showing Saturday than he did Friday in the game featuring rookies and sophomores. He had six assists and only scored six points on 3-of-12 shooting in the Rising Stars game.
The 21-year-old, who participated in a service project Friday, will finish his All-Star experience Sunday afternoon when he’s the honorary captain of an NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Sports basketball game (ESPN3, noon).
“It was a great experience overall, to be able to experience it with my family,” he said. “And not too many people could say they were a part of All-Star weekend, obviously.”
The ambitious 2013 NCAA player of the year hopes to make this an annual affair.
“I got bigger goals and some day I want to become an All-Star,” he said. “Seeing Damian, as young as he is, become an All-Star, it motivates me.”
There were Utah connections in all four events Saturday night.
Hall of Famer Karl Malone participated in the Shooting Stars competition and made it to the finals where his team, which included Kevin Durant and WNBA standout Skylar Diggins, lost to Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and Swin Cash.
Malone, who lives about a five-hour drive away in Ruston, La., agreed to be in the competition after receiving an invitation from the NBA. The Mailman especially enjoyed that his kids were able to attend and take part in the festivities with him.
Although Malone missed a couple of shots from the top of the key and was off on all of his half-court attempts, the 50-year-old looked to be in good enough shape to come out of retirement.
Don’t count on that.
"It’s fun," he said. "But it’s going to be fun about 9 o’clock, 10 o’clock Monday when I get on my bus (I drove down here) and go fishing for a week, too. I’m looking forward to that."
Lillard looks forward to the cherry on his All-Star weekend — the actual game Sunday — but the Blazers' point guard has had a blast so far even if the Spurs' Marco Belinelli won the 3-point contest and the Wizards' John Wall was voted as the dunking champ.
"It was exciting for me all day," Lillard said. "But to be able to do the (Challenge) again and be the Skills champ again along with Trey, it was a great feeling."
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