SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Jazz had enough skills to pull off a victory Saturday night as part of All-Star Weekend.
Jordan Clarkson, Walker Kessler and Collin Sexton teamed up to win the NBA Skills Challenge, beating Team Antetokounmpo in the finals.
“We had a little strategy,” Sexton said. “We didn’t practice at all, so we had to have some strategy.”
“We had mental practice,” Kessler interrupted.
Kessler, who has yet to make a 3-point in an NBA game, sank the game-winning 3-pointer to seal the victory for Team Jazz in front of the home crowd.
“It was pretty cool,” Kessler said. I’m pretty confident in my shot, so it was pretty cool to see it go in to win the game. Even if I missed it, I don’t think we were in trouble.”
After Team Antetokoummpo set the mark with eight points in the round, the Jazz took the round on a 3-pointer from the corner by the rookie Kessler. In that round, players took turns shooting from five different spots, which had values of anywhere from one point to five points.
Overall, the Kia Skills Challenge is a three-round competition where the teams of three players amass “Challenge Points” throughout each round. The team with the most points is crowned champion, but tie-breaker rules are in place if necessary.
In Team Relay — the first round — Team Rooks (1:14.8) defeated Team Antetokounmpo (1:23.7) and Team Jazz to win that round and the accompanying 100 challenge points. Jabari Smith Jr. and Paolo Banchero got Team Rooks off to a strong start, but Jaden Ivey came up big by hitting his corner 3-pointer and blazing to the finish line to best Team Antetokounmpo’s time. The course required players to make a 35-foot outlet pass, dribble through three moving pilons and attempt three different shots (one in the lane, a left corner 3-pointer and a layup or dunk).
In the thrilling second round, Team Passing, Team Jazz ran wild down the stretch and finished with 88 points, besting the 84 points Team Antetokounmpo and outpacing Team Rooks (78 points). That gave Team Jazz 100 challenge points as the round featured the teams trying to make passes to varying lengths and types — a 35-foot outlet pass, a 20-foot bounce pass and a 25-foot chest pass — through moving targets in 30 seconds. Each team had to attempt at least one pass at each target.
Team Antetokounmpo had a late change to the roster before the Kia Skills Challenge as Giannis Antetokounmpo was scratched from the event due to injury and replaced by his Milwaukee Bucks teammate, Jrue Holiday.