CHARLOTTE (North Carolina) - Offence ruled the day and Team USA beat Team World 161-144 in the Rising Stars game on Friday night (Feb 15) at Spectrum Centre in the opening competition of All-Star Weekend.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kyle Kuzma was named Most Valuable Player of a game that was played at a dizzying speed, the 24-second shot clock rarely ticking to 16 before the ball went up.
Kuzma scored a game-high 35 points and had six rebounds, while Celtics forward Jayson Tatum added 30 for Team USA. He was 15 of 27 from the field in 22 minutes.
"I played in this game last year and was really lackadaisical. I didn't want to do that again," he said.
His teammates were impressed.
"He definitely showed out tonight. Without his 35 we probably lose," Hawks guard Trae Young said.
The annual exhibition game features players in their first and second seasons in the league.
Team USA went up 132-121 with 7:35 left on Young's second three-pointer in as many possessions, and Knicks rookie Kevin Knox flushed a two-handed jam off a Young behind-the-back dish 13 seconds later to build a 134-121 edge.
Timberwolves forward Josh Okogie's three-point play for the World made it a two-possession game with 6:17 to go.
The breakneck, video-game pace might have been blinding for basketball purists, with a turntable active for all 40 minutes and a modest level of defence applied - even by All-Star Weekend standards. No free throws were attempted in the first half.
"As you can see, not much defence, guys just want to get up and play," World guard Ben 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."
Simmons led the World team with 28 points, hitting 14 of his 17 shots.
Jazz forward Donovan Mitchell made the game's first free throw with 2:30 left in the third quarter to complete the and-1 play.
The only serious defensive challenge at the rim resulted in an emphatic rejection by Brooklyn Nets forward Jarrett Allen of the US squad when Simmons attacked in the paint.
Team USA led 83-71 at half-time, shooting 62.1 per cent from the field.
"It's tough in these types of games and environments to manage how to have fun and compete," Young said, noting Team USA was driven to snap a two-game losing streak to Team World.
Kuzma and Tatum combined for 39 points in the first half.