A few weeks ago, Oklahoma City star and NBA leading scorer Kevin Durant said Golden State’s Stephen Curry was “the best shooter to ever play the game.” Celtics fans would dispute that in favor of Larry Bird, and speaking of Larry Legend, he won the Three-Point Shootout at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend the first three years of its existence. Curry is the favorite +250 to win the contest Saturday in New Orleans.
Last season Curry set the NBA single-season record with 272 3-pointers, breaking the mark of 269 set by former Celtic Ray Allen when he was with Seattle in 2005-06. Curry set the record despite attempting 53 fewer 3-pointers than Allen did. Curry was the second NBA player in history to hit 200 3-pointers while shooting at least 45 percent from long range. The other was Glen Rice with Charlotte in 1995-96. Curry shot 45.3 percent in 2012-13.
This season, Curry is leading the league in 3-pointers made and attempted, but his accuracy is down to 40.4 percent. Curry competed in the contest for a second time last year, but Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving was the winner in Houston, beating San Antonio’s Matt Bonner in the final round. Curry reached the final round of the 2010 contest, losing to Boston’s Paul Pierce in Dallas.
The highest-scoring player from the West side faces the top scorer from the East in the championship round. Joining Curry on the West are Minnesota big man Kevin Love (+400), Portland’s Damian Lillard (+600) and San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli (+600). Love won the 2012 event in Orlando.
The favorite among the Eastern Conference competitors is Orlando’s Arron Afflalo (+500) followed by Irving (+550), Washington’s Bradley Beal (+750) and Brooklyn’s Joe Johnson (+1000). The last player to repeat in the 3-point contest was Toronto’s Jason Kapono in 2008. Pierce made the finals in 2011 — with Allen — but lost out to Miami’s James Jones.
The Blazers’ Lillard will be a busy guy as he will become the first player ever to compete in five of All-Star Weekend’s events, also in the Rising Stars Game, Skills Challenge, Dunk Contest and All-Star Game. The speedy Lillard is the favorite at +300 to win the Skills Challenge, of which he is the defending champion. That contest is a bit different this year in that it will consist of four teams of two players competing in a two-round timed relay-style course consisting of dribbling, passing and shooting stations. Lillard will be teamed with Utah rookie guard Trey Burke.
The Celtics don’t have a player in the All-Star Game for the first time in seven years, but Jared Sullinger and Kelly Olynyk will play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Team Webber. They are the first Celtics in that since Rajon Rondo in 2008, his second year in the league.