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After a strong showing on Friday night from Evan Mobley and Isaac Okoro, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ magical All-Star weekend continued on Saturday night. This year’s event featured a trio of three-man teams in a contest designed to test shooting, passing and dribbling skills. Team Cavs, which featured Jarrett Allen, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley, opened festivities up with a win in a newly-revamped Skills Challenge. On the opposing side of things Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes and Josh Giddey made up Team Rooks. Team Antetokounmpos, meanwhile, featured two-time MVP Giannis and brothers Thanasis and Alex.
The challenge began with a shooting contest. Even though Allen got off to a slow start, making just two shots in 30 seconds, Mobley and Garland started sizzling for Team Cavs, electrifying the hometown crowd. The trio finished with 44 total points, easily beating Team Rooks (32) and Team Antetokounmpos (20). Garland was the top point-getter, showing off his smooth stroke and easy range, finishing with 21.
"It was a lot of excitement," said Garland. "The crowd was going crazy. It felt like a home game, to be honest with you. It was good just to have them, just have our support, have our backs throughout the entire little Skills Challenge. It was fun just hearing them when we came out. It was cool."
After that, it was the passing round. Team Antetokounmpos won that while the Cleveland trio finished last. A third-round relay tested all three skills. Team Rooks came out on top, solidifying their spot in the finals. With Team Cavs and Team Antetokounmpos tied for second place in the three-skill contest, there was a shoot-off between Garland and Thanasis, not Giannis, from the top of the arc. Garland, who was natural three-point sniper, easily knocked out Team Antetokounmpos and were off to the final round.
Not the first time Giannis lost to a Cavalanche, is it?
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The final round was a half-court shooting contest, where Team Rooks gave Team Cavs a 9.9 second window to land a shot after Detroit rookie Cade Cunningham bombed one in that stretch. Mobley drilled the long-range heave on his first attempt, the second shot for Team Cavs. As Mobley dropped it through in under five seconds, Team Rooks looked stunned, as Team Cavs celebrated another All-Star victory together.
“I felt it when it came off,” Mobley said.
"He is literally a unicorn, 7-footer, 20 years old that can do everything," said Garland. "So, I'm glad to play with him. I'm happy to have him on my team. So I don't have to go against him."
"DG said it the best," added Allen. "Like we always say, he is one of a kind, defense, offense, and now half court.
"I think the whole league knows Evan by now. If they've ever driven to the paint, they definitely know him, so the NBA should know him by now."
Garland and Mobley were all remaining coy on who would take, and make, the half-court shot and both joked that Allen would be the one who would have to do it. When Right Down Euclid asked Allen about it, he seemed a bit surprised that they had to choose. Thankfully, Mobley saved the day one more time, even though Allen wants to be in next year's three-point contest despite making only one on the night. The magic just doesn't stop for these young Cavaliers as the world is now noticing how special they are.
Howard University was able to rally past Morgan State by overcoming a 12-point deficit in the inaugural HBCU Classic.
After an exhilarating Skills Competition, the remainder of Saturday night was a bit of a dud. Minnesota big man Karl-Anthony Towns easily won the Three-Point Contest while New York's Obi Toppin won a mind-numbing Dunk Contest. Thankfully, the Skills Competition isn't all All-Star Saturday had to lean on. Earlier in the day was the inaugural HBCU Classic, which featured Howard University taking on Morgan State at the Wolstein Center. Howard escaped with a 68-66 comeback win over its MEAC rival in what became a thrilling addition to NBA All-Star Weekend.
“I am incredibly grateful to Turner Sports and ESPN, as well as to AT&T and the NBA, for their efforts to make this game happen and for their support of the Howard and Morgan State athletic programs,” said Howard University Director of Athletics Kery Davis. “The historic partnership that has given rise to the NBA HBCU Classic is helping to elevate HBCUs at a critical time for our country. HBCUs and the NBA have a shared legacy of using their platforms to serve their communities and amplify the voices of marginalized people. We appreciate the opportunity to shine a spotlight on HBCUs this year and for our students to share a stage with some of the world’s most talented athletes during NBA All-Star weekend.”
Kyle Foster, who entered the contest as the NCAA leader in 3-point percentage, scored a team-high 18 points and helped Howard erase a 12-point deficit in the second half. De’TorrionWare recorded 19 points and seven rebounds for Morgan State. Seventh Woods, a former viral teenage star and North Carolina product, logged four points, two rebounds and two steals. The Bison won their sixth straight game and improve to 2-0 against the Bears on the season. Howard defeated Morgan State, 91-82, on January 22.
The event is intended to amplify historically Black colleges and universities during one of the sports world’s biggest weekends. There were plenty of stars in attendance to show their support including Milwaukee's Khris Middleton, Cleveland's Collin Sexton, NBA legend Gary Payton, Spike Lee, Jesse Jackson and Michael Eric Dyson. Before the game, Phoenix's Chris Paul and Golden State's Stephen Curry spoke to both teams, while Keke Palmer performed “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, the Black national anthem, as well as the national anthem of the United States of America.
All in all, it was another successful day for Cleveland during NBA All-Star Weekend 2022. It was also been another magical evening for the Cavaliers, as Garland and Allen will represent their team and their city in their arena during Sunday's main event. Maybe they'll be able to go for the triple crown with one of them winning All-Star MVP. Either way, it should be a fun one with more to come soon.
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