Awrite is a common greeting to a stranger in New Orleans. “Where y’at” is the common greeting when you know someone. Since the NBA All-Star was in New Orleans three years ago, the latter greeting would be appropriate. In 2014, LeBron James and Stephen Curry were the leading vote getters for NBA All-Star game. To kick off Friday night’s event, the Rising Stars Challenge was coached by Chris Weber and Grant Hill. Hill’s team won 142-136, led by Dion Waiters 31 points and seven assists. The Shooting Stars Competition was won by the team of Chris Bosh, Swin Cash, and Dominque Wilkins. The Skills Challenge was won by the smallest team of Trey Burke (6’1”) and Damian Lillard (6’3”). The 3-point Shootout was won by Marco Belinelli who finished with 19, 19, and 24 points. The Slam Dunk contest featured the East vs. the West. The East team of Paul George, Terrence Ross, and John Wall won. Wall was voted Dunker of the Night. The All-Star game was won by the East 163-155. The East outscored the West by 11 points in the fourth quarter, led by MVP Kyrie Irving’s 31 points and 14 assists.
This year, Friday night started off again with the Rising Stars Challenge. This event has turned into one of the must see for the weekend. After splitting the first two meetings in the World vs. USA format, the World prevailed this year. The World had a 77-66 lead at halftime, but Team USA fought back behind Charlotte Hornets’ Frank Kaminsky and San Antonio’s Jonathon Simmons. Kaminsky finished with 27 points to lead Team USA. The World came from behind, led by Denver Nuggets’ guard Jamal Murray. Murray is a Canadian native, who made nine three pointers, many of those late in the game. He finished the game with 36 points in 20 minutes of play. The World won 150-141.
The first of the three events on Saturday was the Skills Challenge. This is the second straight year that it has been a big man verse a perimeter player. And for the second straight year, a big man won. New York Knick’s Kristaps Porzingis beat Utah Jazz’s Gordon Hayward. Both players made their way through the obstacle course at the same time. Porzingis made his first three-point attempt from the top of the key to win. Hayward beat out Boston Celtic’s Isaiah Thomas to reach the finals, after both players missed five straight three-point attempts. Porzingis upstaged Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic by making his second three-point attempt, just before Jokic banked in his shot from just beyond half court.
The Three-Point Shooting Contest was now back to two rounds instead of three. The defending champion, Klay Thompson of the Golden State Warriors started off by scoring 18 points. Usually that is enough to get you into the finals. Kemba Walker of the Hornets scored 19 and put himself into the final round. Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers scored 20 points and Eric Gordon of the Houston Rockets scored 24. In the finals, Walker scored 17 points, while Gordon and Irving had 20. For the first time since 2012, there would be a shootout. Irving went first and scored 18 points. It seemed like that would win since Gordon only made two of his five attempts. Then something clicked and he made 11 of 12 shots to finish with 21 points and the trophy.
That ended the excitement of Saturday’s event. After last year’s Dunk Contest (the second best ever since Michael Jordan vs. Dominique Wilkins), it would be hard to follow up, but this was hot garbage. Los Angeles Clipper’s DeAndre Jordan jumped over DJ Khaled while he was spinning and on social media. Orlando Magic’s Aaron Gordon showed that he missed Minnesota Timberwolves’ Zach LaVine. His failed attempts of dropping a ball from a drone then dunking was hard to watch. Neither he nor Jordan made it out of the first round. That left Phoenix Sun’s rookie Derrick Jones Jr. and Indian Pacer’s Glenn Robinson III. This was their first time competing in the event. Robinson would jump over three people and dunk the ball backwards to win. He outscored Jones 94-87 in the final round. Jones did score a 50 on his final attempt by doing a windmill between his legs from inside the three-point line. Robinson won because he took the fewest attempts of anyone, even though only one dunk was worthy of standing on your feet. Next year has to be better or attendance will suffer.
The final event was the All-Star game Sunday night at the Smoothie King Arena. And that appropriately describes the style of play – smoothie. There was no substance of defense. Usually the last four minutes of the game is when both teams start to play for real and things get somewhat competitive. This year was different. The East was down by only 10 points during the final few minutes, and still continued to put on a show of three-point shots and alley-oops. The result was a 192-182 win by the West. They were led by New Orleans Pelicans’ Anthony Davis. He stopped Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russel Westbrook from picking up his third straight MVP. Davis scored the most points in an All-Star game with 52 while grabbing 10 rebounds. He attempted and made the most field goals in the game’s history by going 26 of 39. One of the highlights during the game was Warrior’s Kevin Durant throwing an alley-oop to Westbrook. They had both been avoiding each other all weekend, but managed to come together for a play that somewhat mended the feud between the two. The only other highlights from the game were the Milwaukee Buck’s Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks, especially on Warrior’s Curry.
If I had to rate the NBA All-Star weekend on a scale of 1-10, it would be a six. The city did a great job of putting together the event in approximately seven months, even during the time of Mardi Gras. The events started off well then tapered off. I can say I did “Pass a good time”.