On the surface, the NBA Three-Point Contest seems like an exhibition that is there to entertain the fans and give the game's best shooters a chance to show off their skills in a pressure-free environment.
Only these are NBA stars we are talking about. Anytime there is a competitive event with an opportunity to prove themselves, the world’s best players are going to apply some pressure.
NBA TV analyst and former player Steve Smith told Alex Raskin of the Wall Street Journal that he felt the pressure when he competed in 2002: "Everybody is looking…All these guys, they're All-Stars. You're used to playing in front of fans. I think the big pressure for a lot of guys is looking at your peers sitting around, watching.”
So who will win the 2014 version of the event when the pressure's on?
Let’s dig into a preview and some predictions.
What: Foot Locker Three-Point Contest
When: Saturday, Feb. 15 (third event of All-Star Saturday)
Where: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans
TV: TNT coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET
This year there will be four shooters from each conference lacing it up in the competition.
Arron Afflalo, Orlando Magic
Bradley Beal, Washington Wizards
Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers
Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Marco Belinelli, San Antonio Spurs
Stephen Curry, Golden State Warriors
Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers
Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Many of the rules at the 2014 Three-Point Contest will look familiar to fans of the event, but there are some notable changes.
As usual, there will be five shooting stations located behind the three-point contest with four shots per station worth one point and then the fifth shot (the “money ball”) worth two points. However, in an effort to create more excitement, each player has the option to switch one of the five shooting stations to a rack completely full of five “money balls.”
There will be two rounds, with the highest scoring player from each conference advancing to the finals. Whichever player scores the most in the last round is crowned the champion of the event.
With the new format this season rewarding the winner of each conference with a slot in the championship round, Curry of the Warriors and Irving of the Cavaliers will face off in the finals.
Irving is a bit of a stretch because he is shooting less than 37 percent on the season from behind the three-point line. Considering Kyle Korver, who leads the Eastern Conference in three-point percentage at 46.4 percent, isn’t even in the field, Irving’s percentage doesn’t look great.
However, Irving won the Three-Point Contest last season, and his experience in the event will go a long way.
Clearly, there isn’t nearly the level of pressure in this contest as there is even in a regular-season NBA game in theory, but it is likely a strange feeling to be out there all alone in this competition. Irving will be familiar with the setting and what he has to do to win, which will propel him to the finals.
However, Irving’s run will stop there when he loses to Curry.
Curry is shooting 41.5 percent from behind the arc this season, but even that is a bit misleading because many of the NBA’s best long-ball shooters are set up by teammates and get into a rhythm as they catch and shoot.
On the other hand, Curry creates for himself much of the time and takes circus shots in traffic. It really is amazing that his percentage is better than 40 considering the difficulty level of so many of his shots.
No player has made more threes than Curry’s 171 on the season (his teammate Klay Thompson is second). Ethan Strauss, a contributing writer for ESPN.com, alerted us to the fact that Curry is already dazzling even during All-Star practices:
So Curry hit 3 half court shots in a row. Is there a recorded instance of another player doing that?— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) February 15, 2014
Good luck beating him in a shooting contest.
Note: credit to NBA.com for providing a full rundown of the rules and competitors.
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