Dunks and steals as rising stars thrill

LOS ANGELES • A glorified scrimmage, a no-defence charade - call it the National Basketball Association Rising Stars game, or whatever you want, but it certainly was one thing: Exciting as all heck.

With a game-high 35 points from Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma and another 30 from Boston Celtics wing Jayson Tatum, Team USA defeated Team World 161-144 on Friday night in the first NBA All-Star Weekend event.

But the score mattered less than the sensational plays and displays of athleticism on the court at Charlotte's Spectrum Centre.

With the first five picks in the 2018 NBA draft all participating in the same game, it was a night to celebrate the best and brightest young stars in the league.

The game at least remained close through the first three quarters. But by the middle of the fourth quarter, Team USA had pulled away for good and the real circus shots started coming out.

Slam dunks and three-pointers were the order of the day and defence disappeared completely as Kuzma was named MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the contest which featured the league's top first-and second-year players.

Team USA forward Kyle Kuzma dunking the ball as Team World forward Cedi Osman looks on during the Rising Stars game in Charlotte.
Team USA forward Kyle Kuzma dunking the ball as Team World forward Cedi Osman looks on during the Rising Stars game in Charlotte. PHOTO: REUTERS

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    NBA Draft 2018 top picks 
    Deandre Ayton
    Luka Doncic

    Marvin Bagley III
    Jaren Jackson Jr
    Trae Young

He went 15-of-27 from the field and also had six rebounds.

The teams combined for 37 three-pointers, 55 dunks and shot a total of just 12 free throws.

"Last year, the World team kicked our butts," Kuzma said. "They came in here and beat us by 30 (World won 155-124). A lot of us kind of remembered that.

"I played in this game last year and was really lackadaisical. I didn't want to do that again."

Atlanta's Trae Young finished with 25 points and 10 assists, Sacramento's De'Aaron Fox had 16 assists and Utah's Donovan Mitchell added 20 points and nine assists for Team USA.

Ben Simmons, of the Philadelphia 76ers, led the opposition with 28 points. Chicago's Lauri Markkanen had 21 points and Dallas' Luka Doncic had 13 points and nine assists for the World Team, whose players came from 10 different nations.

Rookie guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Canada added 15 points.

"As you can see, not much defence. Guys just want to get up and play," guard Simmons said. "It's good to get out there and just get up and down with guys you don't normally go up and down with."

This was the fifth year of the Americans-against-World format and the World now lead the series 3-2.

The NBA All-Star game between Team LeBron and Team Giannis will take place at the same venue today.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 17, 2019, with the headline 'Dunks and steals as rising stars thrill'. Print Edition | Subscribe