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Curry, McClung, Lillard glow during All-Star festivities

STEPHEN Curry of the Golden State Warriors and Sabrina Ionescu of the New York Liberty share the limelight in the 3-Point Challenge during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis. | JESSE D. GARRABRANT/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

WASHINGTON (AFP) — Stephen Curry sank his last four shots from the right corner to defeat Sabrina Ionescu 29-26 in a 3-point NBA-Women’s National Basketball Association Challenge at NBA All-Star Saturday festivities.

Ionescu set the score to beat, matching the best numbers by any player in the NBA 3-Point Contest, only for Curry to rally late for the victory, then hug Ionescu as both celebrated a successful effort.

“I knew I had to get hot,” Curry said of his closing run to win the challenge champion’s belt.

The first-ever shootout of the sexes was a groundbreaking showdown between elite guards — Golden State’s Curry, the NBA’s all-time 3-point basket leader, and WNBA single-season 3-point record holder Ionescu of the New York Liberty.

“A night like tonight shows a lot of young girls and young boys that if you can shoot, you can shoot,” Ionescu said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a boy. I think it just matters the heart that you have and wanting to be the best that you can be.”

Both shot from NBA three-point range, Curry with an NBA ball and Ionescu with a WNBA ball.

“This couldn’t have gone any better in the sense of us two taking the challenge in front of this stage. To deliver like that, like she said, the ball was unbelievable to watch,” Curry said.

“I don’t know if anybody can fill these shoes but this might need to be something we do more often.”

Ionescu challenged Curry after she made 37 of a possible 40 points in last year’s WNBA 3-Point Contest, the best score in any single round of a WNBA or NBA 3-point competition.

“That was amazing, just to be able to have this be the first of its kind event and come out here and put on a show, understanding what this means,” Ionescu said. “Excited to change the narrative and be able to do it alongside the greatest to ever do it.”

In the NBA 3-Point Contest, Damian Lillard of Milwaukee won his second consecutive crown, sinking his last shot in the finals to score 26 points and beat Atlanta’s Trae Young and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, who each had 24.

“It was only right that I do it with some drama,” Lillard said. “I didn’t know what I had. I just heard the crowd go, ‘Ooooh.’ I knew I had to make that last shot to get the win.”

Lillard was the first back-to-back 3-point champion since Jason Kapono in 2007-2008.

“The first two times I tried it I felt like I tried too hard, practiced too hard, and the last two times I just came out and shot it,” Lillard said.

Mac McClung, playing for the Orlando Magic’s G-League development team, defended his NBA Slam Dunk Contest title, his winning effort being a leap over retired legend Shaquille O’Neal to grab the ball before a reverse jam that boosted him over Boston’s Jaylen Brown in the final.

Mac McClung of the Orlando Magic’s G-League squad succeeds in retaining the NBA Slam Dunk crown by soaring over Shaquille O’Neal in Indianapolis. | JUAN OCAMPO/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

“It feels really good,” McClung said. “I’m honored.”

He was the first repeat winner since Zach LaVine in 2015-2016.

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