NBA's 2014 All-Star Saturday was heavy on shooting drama and light on dunking drama.
The Skills Challenge went right down to the wire, as the league's skill young guards expertly weaved their way through the obstacle course.
San Antonio Spurs guard Marco Belinelli backed up his reputation as one of this season's best shooters with a thrilling win over Bradley Beal in the Three-Point Contest.
And as for the Slam Dunk Contest, it was...different. But John Wall still managed to show us a dunk we've never seen before.
Team Curry: Steph and Dell Curry, Becky Hammon
Team Durant: Kevin Durant, Karl Malone, Skylar Diggins
Team Hardaway: Tim Hardaway, Tim Hardaway Jr., Elena Delle Donne
Team Bosh: Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins, Swin Cash
The first round was dismal failure for the father-son teams.
Team Curry was the clear favorite heading into the competition, with Charles Barkley declaring, "I'll probably go with Becky's team."
But the Curries were defeated by Team Durant in the first round, while the Hardaways were routed by team Bosh.
In the final round, Bosh carried his team to victory on the strength of his effortless half-court shot.
And so the Miami Heat remain undefeated in just about every recent competition imaginable.
East: Giannis Antetokounmpo/DeMar DeRozan, Michael Carter-Williams/Victor Oladipo
West: Reggie Jackson/Goran Dragic, Trey Burke/Damian Lillard
The Eastern bracket ended in disappointment for perhaps the most likable player in the entire league, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Though he brought the crowd to his feet with a spectacular stuff at the end of the relay, he and DeMar DeRozan did not advance to the final.
Antetokounmpo took out his frustration on Chicago's mascot, Benny the Bull.
In the Western bracket, poor Goran Dragic—who probably should have been named to the All-Star team—was once again robbed when his teammate, Reggie Jackson, lollygagged during his portion of the relay.
The final was a classic—or as classic as the Skills Challenge can get—with Trey Burke swooping in for the layup to beat Michael Carter-Williams and Victor Oladipo by 0.1 seconds.
The first two contests were fun, but Alex Dewey of the website GothicGinobili.com found a problem with the team format: "Honestly, I [think] this team concept is neat but the end result is that Steph Curry and Giannis were on the court for 1 minute in 2 events."
West: Kevin Love, Damian Lillard, Marco Belinelli, Steph Curry
East: Joe Johnson, Arron Afflalo, Bradley Beal, Kyrie Irving
The Three-Point Contest featured a new wrinkle in 2014, with an entire rack of money balls available wherever the competitor chose to place it. Joe Johnson and Kevin Love decided to put their money balls in the second spot, with Johnson saying, "Hopefully I'll get warmed up on the first rack and then I'll be ready to go."
Once again, Curry came into a shooting competition as the favorite, only to fall in the opening round.
Belinelli showed himself to be a strong finisher. He looked horrible earlier on, air-balling at least two shots, but hit three straight money balls at the end to make the championship round. Curry missed critical shots at the end which would have sent him on to the finals.
In the Eastern bracket, Beal turned in the best round of the preliminaries, with 21 points.
Belinelli displayed consistency in the finals, matching his 19 points in the first round with another 19 to put the pressure on Beal. The sophomore shooting guard got off to a painfully slow start but caught fire in the clutch, hitting his final six shots to tie Belinelli at 19.
But Belinelli would not be denied. He absolutely caught fire in the overtime round, scoring 24 points to fend off Beal and claim the trophy.
East: Paul George, Terrence Ross, John Wall
West: Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes, Ben McLemore
This was a yet another new feature for 2014: a 90-second continuous round for each team, judged by Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Magic Johnson.
Terrence Ross, John Wall and Paul George clearly spent some time choreographing their moves before the event. The trio started out with individual dunks before moving on to some three-man choreographed dunks.
Lillard, Barnes and McLemore took the opposite tactic, starting (and missing) a series of multiplayer dunks. But Lillard might have had the dunk of the round with a between-the-legs jam near the end.
All three judges sided with the East.
Lillard vs. Ross, Barnes vs. George, McLemore vs. Wall
Ross won his battle with Lillard. It was gimmicky (featuring a handoff from Drake) but had a high enough degree of difficulty to sway the judges.
George pulled off a sweet between-the-legs 360, but he needed three tries to do it. That was easily enough to beat Barnes, who put the crowd to sleep with a lackluster jam.
The third battle was clearly the best, as McLemore teamed up with Sacramento Kings minority owner Shaquille O'Neal to stage a Renaissance Faire over-the-throne dunk. But Wall won the contest going away with a double-clutch jam over the Wizards mascot, who kind of resembled a member of the Foot Clan from "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."
If you only watch All-Star Saturday for the Slam Dunk Contest, then you were bond to come away disappointed. The contest had enough star power, for once—with All-Stars like George, Wall and Lillard competing—but the format was incredibly confusing.
But aside for the main event, this was a pretty good show. The Three-Point Contest was among the all-time greats, and the NBA didn't mess up the music, hiring Kendrick Lamar.
In the postgame show, Barkley echoed the sentiments of most when he called the Three-Point Contest the highlight of the night.
Maybe the NBA should consider this in the future and make it the evening's main event. After all, the three-point shot has become an integral part of the league, with many fans more interested in a player's three-point percentages than in their overall field-goal percentages. Curry has become one of the league's most popular players, despite the fact that he rarely (if ever) dunks.
The Three-Point Contest is the future of All-Star Saturday. Instead of constantly retooling the dunk contest, perhaps they should move it up on the evening's itinerary and give the shooters a chance to shine.