Birthday boy brings boom
Jones wins Slam Dunk contest, LaVine falls in 1st round of the 3-Point Contest
Zach LaVine started and ended the 3-Point Contest well — it was the middle of the competition that doomed him.
The Bulls guard didn’t make it past the first round during AllStar Saturday Night at the United Center despite hitting all 10 shots from the corners.
LaVine had 23 points in the first round, finishing behind Devin Booker (27), Buddy Hield (27) and Davis Bertans (26). It was not enough to advance with the top three scorers moving on to the next round.
LaVine missed several shots from his money rack, which he set at the top of the circle, and whiffed on both 3-point balls. He came into the contest as a long shot, according to oddsmakers.
Hield, a Kings guard, hit the final shot to win the contest, edging Devin Booker 27-26. Hield made five in a row on his second rack and four of five on his money rack, including his last shot.
Davis Bertans finished third with 22.
Slam Dunk contest: Heat forward Derrick Jones Jr. celebrated his 23rd birthday by winning the contest, edging Magic forward Aaron Gordon in a memorable showdown that required two tiebreaker jams.
Jones and Gordon each got a perfect 50 on both of their dunks in the final. Then they got two more perfect scores on their first jam in the dunk-off.
Jones then took off from just inside the foul line and threw down a windmill jam with his left hand, drawing a 48 from the panel of five judges.
After a short discussion with Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal, Gordon brought out 7-foot-5 Celtics rookie Tacko Fall and positioned him near the basket. He then took the ball from Fall’s hands on his way to a thunderous dunk.
The United Center gasped as the courtside NBA stars celebrated.
But Gordon was awarded a 47, giving the victory to Jones.
The crowd believed Gordon short-changed on his final dunk, reacting with guttural boos. Gordon also lost a memorable dunk contest to LaVine in 2016.
Lakers center Dwight Howard earned major points before he even finished his second dunk. Howard started his routine by welcoming his former Magic teammate Jameer Nelson to the court to bestow him with an oversized cape.
Howard then revealed the No. 24 on the center of his chest, an homage to Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, who died last month in a helicopter crash in Southern California. Howard, now in his second stint in Los Angeles, played with Bryant in the 2012-13 season.
Howard’s 41 and 49 scores weren’t enough for him to advance to the final round but his Bryant tribute will be remembered.
Skills Challenge: It wasn’t a good start to the Skills Challenge for players with Chicago ties.
Clippers guard Patrick Beverley — a Chicago native — and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie — a former Bull — both missed their passes through the ring in the opening competition of All-Star Saturday Night.
Beverley actually missed two of them. Then he “accidentally” drifted into Pascal Siakam’s path while both were trying to make layups — probably no surprise to anyone familiar with Beverley’s tenacity.
If it was an attempt to slow down Siakam, it didn’t work. Siakam completed his layup and then got back to the other end of the court to sink his 3-pointer to move on to the second round.
The Heat’s Bam Adebayo took the trophy, beating the Pacers’ Domanta Sabonis in a what came down to a 3-point contest at the end. Adebayo eliminated Dinwiddie in the first round and Siakam in the semifinals; Sabonis knocked off defending champion Jayson Tatum in the opening round and the Bucks’ Khris Middleton in the semis.
Heat player Derrick Jones Jr. competes in the Slam Dunk Contest at NBA All-Star weekend on Saturday at the United Center.
Bam Adebayo holds his trophy after winning the NBA Skills Challenge at the United Center on Saturday.