Stephen Curry, Sabrina Ionescu headline NBA All-Star Saturday

By Thomson Reuters Feb 18, 2024 | 12:47 AM

Stephen Curry sensed he was in trouble as he neared the end of his round but suddenly flashed the ability that has helped him make a record 3,642 3-pointers in regular-season play.

It was good timing as WNBA standout Sabrina Ionescu put on a stellar shooting performance of her own. But Curry made 4 of 5 shots from the right corner to end his round and overtake Ionescu to win 29-26 in the special 3-point competition between the two prolific shooters during All-Star Saturday Night in Indianapolis.

“I knew I had to get hot,” Curry said on the TNT broadcast. “This couldn’t have gone any better in the sense of us two taking the chance on this stage, one round, with all the hype and to deliver like that. The way she set the bar was unbelievable to watch. This might be something we need to do more often.”

In other competitions, Damian Lillard won the NBA 3-point shooting contest, G-Leaguer Mac McClung won the dunk contest and Team Pacers won the skills competition.

The genesis for the Curry-Ionescu showdown came when Curry was talking to Golden State Warriors teammate Brandin Podziemski in a video about Ionescu’s stellar performance in last year’s WNBA All-Star 3-point competition.

Curry pondered a competition with Ionescu, and the latter made it clear on social media that she was up for the challenge.

Ionescu, who plays for the New York Liberty, started on the left side of the court and made nine of her first 10 shots.

Curry didn’t start as fast but made up ground by hitting all five shots from the right wing before moving past Ionescu from the right corner.

Ionescu also called for more competitions that include both genders.

“That was amazing to have this be the first of its kind event and come out here and put on a show but understanding what this means,” Ionescu said. “I’m excited to change the narrative and be able to do it alongside the greatest to ever do it.

“A night like tonight shows a lot of young girls and young boys that if you can shoot, you can shoot. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy, I think it just matters the heart that you have and wanting to be the best you can be.”

In the regular 3-point shooting contest, Lillard became the first repeat winner since Jason Kapono of the Toronto Raptors won in 2007-08.

Lillard compiled 26 points in the final round, edging 2022 champion Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks. Both Towns and Young had 24 points.

The competition went down to the wire as Lillard had 24 points as he went to the left corner for the rack of five balls. He missed the first four shots before sinking the winner on his final attempt.

“It’s only right that I do it with some drama,” Lillard said. “I didn’t really know what I had. I just heard the crowd like, ‘Ooooh, ooooh.’ I knew I had to make that last shot to win.”

Lillard, Towns, Young and Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers all had 26 points in the first round — a four-way tie for the three finalist spots. A 30-second tiebreaker was held, and Haliburton was eliminated.

Lauri Markkanen (25 points) of the Utah Jazz, Jalen Brunson (24) of the New York Knicks, Donovan Mitchell (21) of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Malik Beasley (20) of the Bucks were eliminated in the first round.

In the Slam Dunk Contest, McClung received a perfect 50 on his final dunk to win the title for the second straight year.

All five judges were impressed with McClung’s final effort as he jumped over NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, grabbing the ball from O’Neal’s hands and finishing with a reverse slam dunk.

McClung, who plays for the Osceola Magic, defeated Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown in the final round.

“I wish I could have gave more to this crowd,” McClung said. “I think I could have had a better performance but I’m very appreciative.”

McClung is the first repeat winner since Zach LaVine — then of the Minnesota Timberwolves — in 2015-16.

Jaime Jaquez Jr. of the Miami Heat and Jacob Toppin of the New York Knicks were eliminated in the first round.

In the Skills Challenge, Team Pacers won in a half-court shot tiebreaker over Team All-Stars.

Haliburton sank a half-court shot with 20.5 seconds left in the 60-second overtime to give Team Pacers the win. Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin were the other members.

Team Pacers earned 100 points apiece in the relay and passing events. Team All-Stars, consisting of Scottie Barnes (Toronto Raptors), Tyrese Maxey (Philadelphia 76ers) and Young, won the 200-point shooting competition to force the tiebreaker.

The other participants in the Skills Challenge were Team Top Picks, featuring No. 1 overall picks Paolo Banchero (Orlando Magic), Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Victor Wembanyama (San Antonio Spurs).

–Field Level Media