ATLANTA – Even in the strangest NBA All-Star Game of all, LeBron James was still the perfect captain.
Team LeBron showed their high-flying, long-distance skills in a dominant run to close the first half, setting up a 170-150 loss to Team Durant in the 70th showcase of mid -season of the league Sunday evening.
This one was certainly different from the previous 69 All-Star contests.
Determined to achieve massive exposure for the league’s television revenue and global brand, the NBA staged the game in a nearly empty arena in downtown Atlanta, a made-for-television extravaganza that was symbolic of the era. coronaviruses.
Even with intense security protocols in place, two players failed to even report. Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have been excluded because they had their hair cut by a barber who tested positive for COVID-19.
But once the game starts, it is very much in line with the three previous All-Star outings with the captain format. The top voters in each conference pick the teams, a duty James has earned over the four years.
He is now 4-0, having beaten Stephen Curry’s side in 2018 and teams selected by reigning two-time Milwaukee MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo in the past two years.
This time, James recruited his two former opponents to form a dominant team that blew Kevin Durant’s side up.
Antetokounmpo was the MVP of the game after shooting 16 of 16 for 35 points. Curry scored 28 points, while Damian Lillard had 32. James spent most of the night admiring his drawing skills, playing under 13 minutes and finishing with four points.
The only good thing for Durant: he didn’t have to participate in that bombardment, passing the game with a diseased hamstring.
Former Florida star Bradley Beal led Team Durant with 26 points.
On an evening highlighting historically black colleges and universities, Team LeBron swept through the first three quarters and were the first to achieve the final target score, earning a total of $ 750,000 for their charity, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund.
The game got out of hand at the end of the second quarter.
With little defense played, Team LeBron took turns soaking alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry hit. Then it was Paul who received a recovery pass from Curry.
After showing they can handle shots up close, Team LeBron headed outside in the dying seconds of half-time.
Lillard stopped for a 3 point from the half court line. Not to be outdone, Curry knocked one over in virtually the same spot.
The atmosphere at State Farm Arena was downright odd compared to a normal All-Star game.
Instead of a packed house, with top celebrities crammed into prime court-side seats, this match was attended by a handful of hand-picked guests. They had plenty of room to spread out in a 17,000-seat hall that was essentially turned into a giant TV studio, with spectators socially removed from the court.
Imposing video screens have been installed behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed around the arena. The recorded crowd noise echoed through the audio system. Entertainment was provided by host Atlanta Hawks, who had no in-game players but was represented by his cheerleaders, drum line, and DJ.
To address fears that one of its biggest events could become a super-spreader of a virus that has killed more than half a million Americans, the NBA has reduced its usual ritual to a weekend extravagant parties, crowded streets and people watching.
This All-Star Game was a one-night-only event, with a pair of skills competitions held shortly before the game and the Dunk Contest slipped into the halftime break. The players flew on Saturday afternoon and were largely confined to a nearby hotel except for their time on the pitch.
“This is when everyone in basketball from all over the world comes to one city,” James said on a Zoom call before the game. “We can sit down and say, ‘Wow, this is the game we built.’ It’s a beautiful weekend for all walks of life, on and off the ground.
“But I’m sitting here in my hotel room, isolated. My family is not here. I am by myself. It’s just different, to say the least, compared to previous years.
Team Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans started the game in place of Embiid. The Pelicans forward collected 10 points.
Team LeBron: Paul had 16 assists. … Lillard finished the game with a 3 point shot from just over the half court line.
The 71st All-Star Game will take place on February 20, 2022 at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 game is scheduled for Salt Lake City, followed by Indianapolis in 2024.
Curry wins the title by 3 points on the last stroke
Stephen Curry made his way to another 3-point title, and Domantas Sabonis made sure the Skills Challenge still belongs to the greats.
Then, Portland’s Anfernee Simons sealed her final, winning the dunk with a kiss. Well almost.
Golden State Warriors superstar Curry provided a spectacular glimpse into his seventh All-Star Game appearance when he sank his final 3-point scorecard to overtake Utah’s Mike Conley for the title. Curry also won 3-point content in 2015.
Conley led with 27 points before Curry was the last shooter in the contest. Curry had 26 points before sinking his last corner shot for 28 points and the win.
“I could hear the temperature going up a bit,” Curry said of the reaction from the small crowd allowed at State Farm Arena.
“It was a great competition,” said Curry. “I’m glad I did.”
After finishing second to 2020 Skills Challenge winner and big man Bam Adebayo of Miami, Sabonis of Indiana returned to claim the title.
The 6-foot-11 Sabonis didn’t miss a pass or a 3-point shot in playoff wins over New York Knicks ‘Julius Randle and Dallas’ Luka Doncic in the passing, ball handling and firing capacity. Doncic fell behind by missing his first two passing accuracy tests.
Sabonis defeated Nikola Vucevic of Orlando, 7 feet, in the big men’s skills title game. Each missed two 3-pointers before Sabonis sank his third attempt and then landed his fist in victory.
“It was fun,” Sabonis said. “I wanted to go out and make sure I did it this time.”
Curry had 31 points in the first round to lead the contest at 3 points. Jayson Tatum, with 25 points, and Conley, with 28 have also improved.
Tatum led the final round with 17 points while making just one shot from the “silver ball” rack. Conley nearly doubled his total in the first round, and it appeared that might be enough until Curry solidified his reputation as one of the best shooters in NBA history.
Simons, a native of Altamonte Springs, showed off his jumping ability and creativity to beat Obi Toppin of New York and Cassius Stanley of Indiana in the two-round dunk contest which began with Stanley’s spectacular slam that took received a surprisingly low score.
The 6-foot-3 Simons soared, nearly kissing the rim, on a powerful right-handed jam to beat Toppin in the final. Simons pursed his lips as if he was kissing the edge, even if it was a few inches away.
“I tried to get close enough that I didn’t bang my head too hard on the rim,” said Simons, before admitting that he had never “actually kissed the rim” in practice.
“I had to commit to it,” Simons said.
Simons also paid tribute to a former star by wearing Tracy McGrady’s jersey over a jam that scored 49 to earn her place in the final.
“He was my hero growing up, so I wanted to pay tribute to him as well,” Simons said.
The contest was judged by five former dunk champions: Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins (1985, 1990), Spud Webb (1986), Dee Brown (1991), Jason Richardson (2002, 2003) and Josh Smith (2005).
There was an early controversy when Stanley’s first dunk, a southpaw after moving the ball between his legs in the air, scored just 44 points. Toppin then scored a 48 on a two-handed backhand.
On Simons’ first dunk, he positioned the ball even with the top of the square over the edge. He then showed his ability to pounce by grabbing the ball for the jam which brought in 46 points.
“I just wanted to show that I can jump high enough and be creative, so it was fun,” he said.
Toppin also got creative, jumping over his father, Obadiah Toppin, and teammate Julius Randle on a dunk that earned him 46 points.
In the final, Toppin took off near the free throw line, inspiring comparisons to Wilkins’ winning form with the Atlanta Hawks.