SALT LAKE CITY — There was no Steph Curry or Klay Thompson for this year’s NBA 3-point contest.
But Indiana’s Buddy Hield, the league leader in 3-pointers made this season and the contest’s winner in 2020, and Portland’s long-range shooter Damian Lillard participated and put on a show.
Lillard, wearing a jersey from Weber State where he played college basketball in nearby Ogden, Utah, outshot Hield and Hield’s Pacers teammate Tyrese Haliburton to win his first 3-point contest in his third try.
Lillard participated in the event in 2020 and 2019.
“This was a goal of mine because as a shooter, any time you come into a competition like this, you want to win it,” Lillard said. “I had done it two times before this, and I feel like I just didn’t take it serious enough. You know, I wanted to just shoot my way to a win, and I wasn’t shooting the ball really disciplined. I was lazy.
“I wanted to win at least one time before I was done playing. That’s why I took this one a little more serious, and it just happened that way.”
Here’s a look at this year’s 3-point contest, which did not feature 2022 champion Karl-Anthony Towns:
How did Damian Lillard win?
Lillard totaled 26 points in the first round and advanced to the finals with Hield (23 points) and Haliburton (31 points).
In the final round, Hield went first and posted 25 points, making seven of his final eight shots.
Lillard started strong, making 10 of his first 16 shots, but he also needed a strong finish. Going into his final rack of basketballs, Lillard needed to make at least four 3s, including his money ball shot worth two points. He made it suspenseful. He missed his first shot and then made his final four for 26 points to surpass Hield.
“It got to a point where I was counting in my head because the first round I didn’t even finish the rack because I was trying to look and find my score,” Lillard said. “This time I started counting, and I lost track.
“So as I got down the stretch of that last two racks, I was counting. I knew I had to make all of them, but I thought I was on track to tie him. I actually lost count. But I knew I needed to make all of them. Then when I looked up, I was, like, ‘Oh, that’s 26.’
“It’s ironic that it came down to that, and I had to tighten up and come up big at the end. But, that’s typical for me.”
Haliburton went last, but it was an anticlimactic finish as he started off poorly with just two makes in his first 11 shots and was unable to pass Lillard.
“I had a lot of fun,” Haliburton said. “Unfortunately, I choked in the last round, but, things happen. I’ll be back next year.”
Who is Damian Lillard?
Lillard is one of the game’s premier scoring guards. He is a seven-time All-Star, including this season, and is averaging 31.4 points, good for fourth-best in the NBA.
“My game isn’t based on being super athletic or anything like that,” Lillar said. “I’m not the fastest point guard in the league. I play a quick game, a crafty game. I’m smart. I can shoot the ball. I think being able to shoot the ball the way I can shoot it off the dribble, off the catch, off screens, whatever, that’s a weapon that allows you to play for a longer period of time.”
Known for Dame Time when he has a knack for making big shots at key times in the game, Lillard, along with Steph Curry, started stretching the court with deep 3-pointers – sometimes taking shots from near the logo at halfcourt. Lillard is No. 4 in 3-pointers made this season (191), tied for second in 3-pointers made per game (4.2) and No. 2 in 3-point attempts per game (11.2).
He has spent his 11-year career with the Trail Blazers.
Who else was in the 3-point contest?
Miami’s Tyler Herro, who is 29th in 3-pointers, missed his first seven attempts and had trouble catching up; New York’s Julius Randle, a late add to the event, struggled as did Sacramento’s Kevin Huerter; Boston’s Jayson Tatum and Utah’s Lauri Markkanen were solid with 20 points in the first round but it wasn’t enough. All five were eliminated and did not advance to the finals.
Source: USA Today