Phoenix Suns

Kings' Buddy Hield wins first NBA 3-Point Contest title on final shot

Kings' Buddy Hield wins first NBA 3-Point Contest title on final shot

Buddy Hield finished the job this time around. 

The Kings sharpshooter won the NBA 3-Point Contest on Saturday during All-Star Weekend in Chicago after losing in the finals last year in Charlotte. Hield became the first King to win since Peja Stojaković went back-to-back in 2002 and 2003, besting Washington Wizards big man Davis Bertans and Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker. 

The 27-year-old saved his best for last, draining seven of his last eight shots and surpassing Booker with his last attempt. 

Hield needed 27 points in the last round to beat Booker, the 2018 champion. The Suns star nervously watched on as Hield stepped up to the "money ball" rack in the left corner. Each of Hield's final shots was worth two points, and he needed to make four to pass Booker. 

He did just that, leaving it to the final shot. 

Hield advanced to the finals with an identical 27 points in the first round, tying Booker for the highest score. He drained one of two of the new shots six feet behind the 3-point line -- worth three points apiece -- and finished off the round with six consecutive makes, including all five from his "money ball" rack.

[RELATED: Purple Talk Podcast breaks down the Kings at the All-Star break]

The Kings guard was a +700 favorite to win the contest, according to DraftKings. That gave Hield the sixth-best odds out of eight contestants, but the Bahamian was the fastest of his competitors -- and anyone in NBA history -- to make 800 3-pointers.

He has been one of the NBA's best 3-point shooters for a while, but Hield now has the hardware to prove it. 

Andrew Wiggins has been silencing critics ever since trade to Warriors

Andrew Wiggins has been silencing critics ever since trade to Warriors

PHOENIX -- For much of his career, Andrew Wiggins has simultaneously fought and triggered the criticisms of poor effort and sub-par defense, triggering a label of "bust" for the former first-round pick. 

In his first five seasons with the Minnesota Timberwolves, he was among the worst defenders in the league, drawing the ire of former teammates, wearing out his welcome in the Midwest. 

The reputation followed him to Golden State, where even a change of address couldn't erase his mistakes. At his new gig, he's betting a new environment will unlock his game. Twenty-seven points, five assists and four rebounds later, he momentarily silenced those pundits in a 112-106 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Wednesday. 

"Any time you enter a new chapter in life, you want to do better," Wiggins said following the defeat. "You never want to go back to how stuff was before. This is a blessing."

At the moment, Wiggins is taking advantage of the opportunity. Against the Suns, he showed potential. Six minutes into the game, he hit a 3-pointer in front of Golden State's bench, giving the Warriors a two-point lead. A minute later, he found Marquese Chriss on an alley-oop pass. More vital, he finished with a career-high four blocks, hounding Devin Booker much of night, impressing coaches along the way. 

"He's a great weapon to have," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "And we're still learning how to use him and what he's comfortable with and how to use him and experiment." 

"It's a great challenge and it's only going to make me better," Wiggins added. "Guarding the best guys in the league and seeing their tendencies. It's only going to make me better so I love it. 

Over his last three games, he has been tasked with guarding the opposition's best player, showing his two-way potential. In Saturday's loss to the Lakers, he scored 24 points, helping limit All-Star forward LeBron James to just 7-of-17 shooting from the field. Two nights later, he scored 14 of his 18 points in the third quarter, helping the Warriors cut a 21-point deficit to five. 

Wiggins' activity was only seen in spurts during his Minnesota tenure. Picked No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft, he was expected to lead the Timberwolves back to contention. However, his calm demeanor and propensity to disappear in games all but erased his annual average of nearly 20 points per game. Paired with fellow No. 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns, the duo was known more for unfulfilled potential than wins. All the while, Wiggins was one of the worst defenders in the league. 

The trade to Golden State has also provided a welcomed change for Wiggins on the offensive end. No longer subjected to heavy isolation offense, he's now asked to cut in the Warriors' motion offense -- a change the 24-year old has enjoyed. 

"It's been great," Wiggins said. "I feel like I've been adapting pretty well and guys have been helping me. But you get easier baskets like this. Basketball is fun, everyone is looking out for each other, unselfishly and everyone is trying to get each other open. So it's a great feeling." 

Wiggins' arrival comes as Golden State is in a period of transition. Hours before Wiggins' on-court outburst, Kerr reiterated that Stephen Curry's return from a broken hand is coming, and he's excited about pairing them together. 

"Once we are fully healthy and we've got a lot of different weapons on the floor, it becomes easier to create space for him and once he gets in space," Kerr said, "he's really explosive getting to the rim and obviously can knock down perimeter shots as well." 

[RELATED: Why Kerr compares Wiggins to puzzle piece for Dubs' future]

For five years, Wiggins has tried to bare the responsibility of carrying a franchise with mixed results. Now, in the midst of his current circumstances, he and his coaches believe he's in the right spot to fulfill his potential.

"He has been a perfect fit," Kerr said. "And he's playing well, but he has got to keep getting better and we've got to keep pushing him." 

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in narrow 112-106 loss vs. Suns

Warriors takeaways: What we learned in narrow 112-106 loss vs. Suns

BOX SCORE

PHOENIX -- It's a matchup that has yielded good results for Golden State in recent years, but in Wednesday's 112-106 loss, the Phoenix Suns reminded the Warriors just how far they've fallen. 

The defeat marked Golden State's fourth straight and the first time Phoenix has taken the season series over the Warriors since 2011. 

Suns guard Devin Booker scored 27 points as his team shot nearly 38 percent from 3-point range in a game Phoenix led most of the evening. 

Wednesday's game marked the Warriors last before the All-Star break, providing an eight-day break for the battered roster. 

Here are the takeaways from a loss that had some silver linings to it:

Sloppy play 

On most nights, the Warriors are at a competitive disadvantage based on their talent. They compounded that Wednesday with some dreadful offensive moments, committing 22 turnovers on the night. 

Golden State's troubles were evident from the start, as the Warriors committed nine turnovers in the first quarter. By the end of the first half, they committed 13 giveaways as the Suns took an eight-point lead into halftime. At night's end, the Warriors had nearly as many turnovers as assists (27). 

In recent years, Golden State's Hall of Fame-level talent could overcome such performances. Now, with much of that talent gone or injured, taking care of the ball is vital. 

Wiggins better than advertised

Andrew Wiggins has churned in some solid performances since he was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves last week. On Wednesday, he continued the trend, finishing with 27 points, four rebounds, five assists, two steals and four blocks. 

Upon arrival, Wiggins was maligned for his defense and effort, causing some NBA observers to call the 24-year old a "bust". He displayed no such issues Wednesday evening, routinely challenging shots while carrying the offensive load. 

Wiggins development is imperative to Golden State's future success. If the Warriors plan to compete for titles, his defense will have to be more consistent. Wednesday was the latest positive step towards that goal. 

[RELATED: Why Kerr compares Wiggins to puzzle piece for Dubs' future]

Chriss shows out in old home

Marquese Chriss has had a rollercoaster season thus far. On Wednesday, he continued to make it all worth it, finishing with 18 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks.

The big man got going early, scoring 12 first-half points, showing a diverse skillset along the way. Four minutes into the game, he blocked former teammate Devin Booker at the rim, leading to a fast-break opportunity on the other end. Two minutes later, he caught a lob pass from Wiggins, giving Golden State a two-point lead. 

The performance coincides with Chriss' mini-tear of late. Four days ago, he scored a career-high 26 points against the Lakers. On Monday, he followed that performance up with 17 points against the Heat. 

The location was also noteworthy. Chriss spent his first two seasons in Phoenix, never winning more than 24 games, earning a reputation of being immature along the way. Now, in Golden State, Chriss has the chance to earn a spot in the team's future plans. So far, he's taking advantage of the opportunity.