TORONTO — A big man from Kentucky pulled the upset in the NBA’s Skills Challenge at All-Star Saturday Night.
Another knocked Anthony Davis out of the running.
But Davis — the Pelicans’ All-Star representative bowed out in the first round to the Sacramento Kings’ DeMarcus Cousins — felt like he got a piece of the title.
The eventual champion, Minnesota rookie Karl-Anthony Towns — like Davis and Cousins, a one-year star at Kentucky — beat Cousins in the second round, then pulled the upset on Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas in the finals to win the first Skills Challenge to include big men.
“The bigs were in the back saying one of the bigs has to win,” Davis said after the event. “That’s why everyone was cheering for Karl when he was in the final round. For him to (win), it felt like we all took the trophy.”
The event is a test of dribbling, passing and shooting. Players were required to run the floor, make a pass through a hoop, finish a layup and make a 3-pointer.
Davis got off to a quick start in his opening-round matchup with Cousins, with Cousins losing the ball out of the gate. But Cousins closed the gap at the end as Davis misfired a 3-pointer, and the Kings center made his second try as Davis misfired on his third.
Though he expected a guard to win the event, Davis came prepared to contend. Still, he admitted he wasn’t coming into Saturday with a cutthroat approach, saying the goal was to “get away from competition and just have fun.”
“Now, the All-Star game is different,” Davis said. “But all the challenges — the Skills Challenge, the dunk contest — all that stuff is about fun.”
It’s also the sign of a changing game. Thomas, who advanced through the guards bracket, was an 11-5 favorite to win the event, according to Las Vegas sports book Bovada. Cousins was 10-1, Davis 12-1 and Towns 15-1. Golden State Warriors power forward Draymond Green — whom Towns eliminated in the first round — was 9-2.
“I like proving people wrong, so I’m glad I was able to make a lot of people wrong,” Towns said. “I was able to make critics wrong, (Las) Vegas (oddsmakers) wrong, (teammate) Ricky Rubio wrong. So I’m just so ecstatic right now.”
Davis said if big men are invited back, he’ll likely participate again.
“It just shows the way the game is changing,” Davis said. “A lot of bigs — me, DeMarcus, Draymond, Karl — it just shows that we can do the same things guards do. Not as good, but we’re on that level. It just brings a different element and shows how the game is changing.”