Nikola Vucevic the NBA All-Star looked a little more comfortable the second time around.
Back in 2019, when Vucevic was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, he had an early exit in the Skills Challenge (suffering a first round loss to Nikola Jokic), and was quiet in the All-Star Game (taking just two shots, but making both for four points).
This time around, Vooch wasn’t as hesitant to fire away, an increase in volume perhaps attributed to a sense of belonging that comes with validation of a second All-Star selection.
His 41-percent shooting from deep this season likely added to that comfort level.
Playing in front of a national audience for just the (insert low number here) time, Vooch was eager to show off his range and evolution. The shots just weren’t falling the way they have been for him this season as he missed his first three shots of the first quarter, all from beyond the arc.
His first points came in the final minute of the first half as he threw down a dunk after a turnover.
In the third he drained a straightaway three, finishing the game 2-for-6 from the field (1 of 5 from three) for five points, while also grabbing seven rebounds in Team Durant’s 170-150 loss to Team LeBron.
It was prior to the game where Vooch’s all-around skill set was on display as he made an unexpected run to the final round of the Skills Challenge.
First he made quick work of Robert Covington...
Then the big man upset one of the league’s elite point guards in Chris Paul....
“Obviously he is one of the best players ever at his position, to have a chance to beat him was great,” Vucevic told reporters of defeated Paul on Sunday night.
“Whenever you have a chance to compete against a great player like him, although it’s just a skills competition game, it’s still fun,” Vucevic said. “Something I’ll definetly look at with a lot of pride at the end of my career.”
Vooch had a great opportunity to take home the trophy but couldn’t get his three to drop on three attempts as he lost to Domantas Sabonis in the final round...
“It was great to have two big men in the championship game,” Vucevic said. “It just shows how far big men have come, how we improved, how we adjusted to the new style of play in the NBA.”
Overall, a pretty good showing in the All-Star festivities for Vooch, though it would have been nice if a few more threes dropped. But great to see him sharing the spotlight with the best in the world and getting the recognition he deserves.
“It was a lot of fun, a very good experience,” Vucevic said. “All of it was put together in just one day but it was still fun to be part of it and be out there with all those great players to compete. Skills Challenge, came up really close. Just that one shot. But it was fun, to win two rounds and get to the finals, it was a good time. And then the game itself also, we seen some amazing plays. So, just a great weekend for sure. Great experience.”
Here are some of the sights and sounds from Nikola Vucevic’s All-Star Sunday....
"Bro, this air fryer changed my life, I'm telling you, you gotta get one!" pic.twitter.com/cp7UF0Hrzr— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) March 8, 2021
Magic fans when Nikola Vucevic got his first bucket... pic.twitter.com/crxZNljmff— Orlando Pinstriped Post (@OPPMagicBlog) March 8, 2021
Randle and Vucevic contesting shots.— Steve Jones Jr. (@stevejones20) March 8, 2021