Mac McClung, Damian Lillard shine on All-Star Saturday

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Mac McClung closed NBA All-Star Saturday on a high note, recording a perfect score of 50 on three of his four dunks to win the slam dunk contest in Salt Lake City.

Before McClung brought the crowd and fellow NBA players to their feet with several jaw-dropping dunks, the league opened the night with the Skills Challenge and the 3-point contest.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard scored 26 points in the final round of the 3-point contest to claim his first title.

Lillard edged out Indiana Pacers guards Buddy Hield (25 points) and Tyrese Haliburton (17) to become the first Trail Blazers player to win the title.

Lillard competed in 2014 and 2019 but was eliminated in the first round both times.

“I think all the best shooters in the history of our game, most of them have one of these,” Lillard said. “I just wanted to get it done at least one time. So I’m happy I got it, now I can retire from it.”

Homecourt advantage proved to be quite helpful for Team Jazz players Jordan Clarkson, Collin Sexton and Walker Kessler, who won the Skills Challenge on their home floor at Vivint Arena.

Team Jazz beat Team Rooks and Team Antetokounmpos by scoring 300 points, including 200 in the shooting competition. The three teams competed in a relay race before moving onto the passing and shooting events.

Three 2022 lottery picks — Orlando Magic forward Paolo Banchero, Detroit Pistons guard Jaden Ivey and Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. — played on Team Rooks. Milwaukee Bucks guard Jrue Holiday replaced injured teammate Giannis Antetokounmpo (wrist) and played with two Antetokounmpo brothers — Thanasis and Alex — on the second team.

McClung, who was signed from the G League to a two-way contract by the Philadelphia 76ers last week, won the dunk contest by a score of 100-98 over New Orleans Pelicans guard Trey Murphy III.

“It’s great,” McClung said. “I’m truly blessed and grateful to the NBA for giving me this opportunity. If you guys will have me, I’ll be back (next year).”

Houston Rockets forward Kenyon Martin Jr. and New York Knicks forward Jericho Sims were eliminated after the first round.

The 6-foot-2 McClung made a statement with his first dunk, when he received a perfect 50 score. The dunk featured him hurdling over two people, grabbing the ball and tapping the ball off the glass before finishing with two hands.

On his second dunk, McClung earned a 49.8 with a two-handed 360 that gave him the highest combined first-round score.

McClung, who won an All-American high school dunk contest in 2018, has only played in two NBA games in his career.

Murphy recorded a 49.2 on his final dunk before watching McClung seal the victory with another perfect dunk.

The trophy was awarded by Julius Erving, the first dunk champion. The NBA announced earlier in the day that it would be naming its All-Star dunk contest trophy after Erving.

“It’s unmatched, unparalleled,” Erving said of the honor. “It feels really good.”

–Field Level Media

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