New Orleans played host to this years All Star weekend, which turned out to be a weekend of highs and lows. The All Star game itself played out just as it always has, a high scoring affair until the final quarter, when it became a real battle to decide who the winner was but the real talking point of the weekend was the new format for the dunk competition, and sadly most of it was negative.
The weekend began with the BBVA Rising Stars challenge, an event that showcases the skills of the NBA’s rookies and sophomore players.
Chris Webber and Grant Hill were the honorary team leaders and were in charge of team selections. The game itself was a highly entertaining affair and a great kick start to the weekend. Team Hill took out the victory over Team Webber 142-136. They were led by the play of big man Andre Drummond, who was named MVP and set a record for most rebounds in a Rising Stars game with 25. He added 30 points in his MVP performance and showed the world just how much his game is on the rise. Don’t be surprised should you see big ‘Dre in the All Star game in the near future.
The game was typical of one that features on All Star weekend, a real lack of hustle and defense was balanced out by some spectacular offense and scoring. New Orleans Pelican, Anthony Davis was impressive early in the game with a variety of dunks, including a spectacular windmill and some big blocks, befitting his status as the NBA’s leading shot blocker.
One of the better phases of play came late in the game when the Cleveland Cavalier’s Dion Waiters and New York Knicks Tim Hardaway Jr. went at it, one on one, delighting the crowd by trading buckets on consecutive trips up and down the floor. Waiters finished with 31 points, Hardaway with 36 including seven three pointers.
The presentation of the MVP award for the game was an interesting one. The award itself looked like it could have been made by a bunch of kindergarten students; the award fell apart while the BBVA representative attempted to present it, which then caused him to drop it amid much laughter. I hope for Andre Drummond’s sake he gets a new award and not the one he received in pieces!
The game was as entertaining as we’ve seen from the rookies and second year players for some time and left us all wondering if the rest of the weekend would live up to expectations following such an entertaining event.
All Star Saturday Night
There were four events that filled the NBA’s schedule on Saturday night, (Sunday here in Australia) the shooting stars, skills challenge, three point contest and what many consider to be the penultimate event, the dunk competition.
The four events were a little different this season with competitors split up into Eastern Conference and Western Conference ‘teams’ and the winners of each conference went on to play each other in the final.
The shooting stars event was taken out by Team Bosh which consisted of Chris Bosh, Dominique Wilkins and WNBA player Swin Cash. The ‘highlight’ of the event, if you could call it that, was Chris Bosh hitting back to back half court shots to take his team to victory.
The shooting stars challenge is simply each team seeing how quickly they can hit four shots from four different spots on the court. Not the most challenging or entertaining event but one in which the fans get to watch some of the older generation of NBA stars as well as some of the WNBA’s finest talent. This years event included players such as the aforementioned Dominique Wilkins, Karl Malone, Dell Curry, who played alongside his son Steph Curry and Tim Hardaway who also played alongside his son and namesake Tim Hardaway Jr.
Next up was the skills challenge which took on a new format as well this season with the event becoming a team one with two players per team. It was taken out by Damian Lillard, who featured in every single event this All Star weekend, and Trey Burke. There was little effort imparted into the competition by any of the four teams. This was Lillard’s second consecutive win in this event but all in all it wasn’t what any fan of the game would call spectacular.
The three point contest was probably the highlight of the day. Marco Belinelli of the San Antonio Spurs won the event thanks to some great shooting in the final.
He beat out hot favourite Steph Curry, Kevin Love and Damian Lillard to advance through as the best from the west while Bradley Beal of the Washington Wizards defeated last years defending champion Kyrie Irving, Arron Afflalo and an extraordinarily slow shooting Joe Johnson to be the eastern conferences best.
Belinelli beat Beal in a tie-breaker as he finally got the hot hand despite numerous air balls throughout the competition.
Michael Jordan, Julius Erving, Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb, all names that bring back memories of acrobatic, high flying feats that will be forever a part of NBA history, but this years dunk contest raised more concerns about the competitions viability than any other year has before it. It wasn’t so much a lackluster performance from its participants, rather its ridiculous format which gave a team and not an individual the win and never let the viewers see the competitors really get the chance to show what they could do.
John Wall was the ‘dunker of the night’ as it was officially called and the Eastern Conference were the winners of the event. Some great dunks were performed but the format totally killed off the one on one battles that we have seen so often in the past and thoroughly enjoyed. I can guarantee that the dunk competition will fall by the wayside should the NBA continue with such a ridiculously bad format. Disappointing to say the least but I’ll let you all make up your own mind.
All Star Game
The pre game entertainment was big, you know just like the commercials, but this was the kind of big that existed around the year 2002. Nelly, Pharell, Snoop and an over sized Busta Rhymes were on hand to entertain the masses and I’m guessing that even Steve Nash would have felt young were he witnessing the pre-game flair. All in all though, the pre-game entertainment did enough to hype the introductions of the players.
The game started well for the Eastern Conference team with LeBron James scoring at will early on and the East went on an 11-2 run thanks to some unselfish play from the whole team.
The Western Conference team fought back thanks to the all too familiar Clippers connection of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. The lobs were coming from all directions and Griffin was in a league of his own in the first term as he racked up 18 points on 9 of 11 shooting, two shy of Glen Rice’s 20 point third quarter in 1997, which remains the most points scored by one player in any quarter of an All Star game. The high scoring first term finished with the Western Conference leading 44-42.
The second quarter began in much the same fashion as the first with lots of buckets, but rather than each team putting on points in runs they both traded baskets for quite some time.
Anthony Davis gave the hometown Pelicans fans something to cheer about when he put together three spectacular alley-oops in an Eastern Conference 13-2 run as Kobe Bryant joined the commentary team and shared his feelings about missing his first All Star game in 16 years. Kobe’s rivals from the Eastern Conference continued to run and gun, pushing the ball which resulted in some big dunks on the fast break before the West decided they could beat the East at their own game with a little bit of their own fast break ball.
The halftime score broke a few All Star records, with the leading Western Conference team scoring the most points by a team in All Star history in a half and the two teams combining for the most total points in a half ever.
The half time show impressed with artists including Gary Clark Jr., Janelle Monae and even an appearance from Earth, Wind and Fire!
Carmelo Anthony, who was on a tear from behind the arc, continued his hot shooting to start the third term and the man the whole basketball world has been raving about of late, Kevin Durant, came back with some treys of his own but it was Melo who would tie the record for three pointers in an All Star game with his sixth coming in the third.
The defense continued to lack any kind of intensity and even looked as if it were becoming even more lax to start this third quarter, but it wasn’t to last too long. The West held a commanding lead at the start of the third but to close the term the Eastern Conference went on an 18-3 run in the final four minutes thanks to some nice defense and solid scoring. The Western Conference led the East 126-123 to start the final period.
As expected both teams started to contest their oppositions shots and the lanes closed up for the most part in the fourth. Kyrie Irving, who would go on to be named the games MVP, was one player who would find his way to the rack though. He repeatedly scored on his drives to start the final term, including an impressive dribble-drive that had big man Dwight Howard totally lost. Carmelo Anthony continued his hot shooting hitting his seventh three of the night and taking the record outright, also tying the game 140-140.
Eastern Conference rivals LeBron James and Joakim Noah then put together a series of pick and roll baskets that had many wondering just how good those two could have been together had things been different.
The final minutes of the fourth quarter belonged to the Eastern Conference as they gained the lead and built on it during a 10-0 run to finish the game and taking out the win 163-155.
Kyrie Irving was named MVP of the game, scoring 31 points on 14 of 17 shooting with 14 dimes and 5 boards. Carmelo Anthony had 30 points including 8 of 13 from behind the arc.
Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin both scored 38 points for the Western Conference team, just five points shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all time record of 42 points in an All Star game.