By Jerry Feitelberg
The NBA’s annual All-Star game, this year in Chicago, featured a fantastic array of talented athletes. Team LeBron featured his teammate, Antony Davis, Kawhi Leonard, Luka Doncic, James Harden, Chris Paul, Russell Westbrook, and Ben Simmons. The other team, captained by Giannis Antetokounmpo, starred Boston’s Kemba Walker, Atlanta’s young star, Trae Young, Miami’s Jimmy Butler, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid, and Toronto’s Kyl;e Lowry and Pascal Siakam.
The game had a new rule this year. Whatever team won the quarter, a charity represented by either Team LeBron or Team Giannis would receive $100, 000 dollars. If the quarter ended in a tie, the money would be added to the $200,000 prize if their team won.
As is usual in the NBA’s All-Star game, teams did not play defense. They didn’t foul very much, either. In the first quarter, the game appeared to be a track meet. Both teams raced up and down the court. Kawhi Leonard was four for four on three-point tries as he led team LeBron to a 53-41 advantage. The Chicago Scholars charity received $100, 000 dollars. As mentioned earlier, teams didn’t commit too many fouls. There were a lot of lobs and dunks. Players making three-point shots were not contested. The first foul of the game came with just 23 seconds left to play in the period.
Team Giannis took control of the game in the second period. Kawhi Leonard stayed hot as he made three more threes in the quarter. However, Giannis Antetokounmpo got his game going and led his team to a 51-30 victory in the period. Trae Young, the second-year player from the Atlanta Hawks, wowed the crowd as he hit a three-point shot as the buzzer sounded. Team Giannis led 92-83 after the first 24 minutes of play.
The third quarter was a tie. Both teams scored 41 points, so there was no money going to a charity. The $100,000 would be added to the $200,000 going to the winning team’s choice. That meant one charity would go home with $400,000 and the other $100,000. Team LeBron’s Chris Paul got hot and made several threes in the third period. Team Giannis led Team LeBron 133-127 after three periods.
Under the new “Elam Ending Rule,” 24 points (to honor Kobe Bryant) were added to the team that led at the end of the third period. That established a target score of 157. The first team to reach 157 won the game. The new rule eliminated the clock. They would play as long as needed to reach the target.
Team LeBron, trailing by six, decided to play defense. They chose to go with a smaller lineup. Team Giannis, with two seven-footers, Rudy Gobert and Joel Embiid, as well as Giannis, had trouble handling the ball. Kawhi Leonard, who was the Defensive Player of the Year a couple of years ago, helped shut down Team Giannis’ offense. Embiid was double and tripled team. Team LeBron would not let Giannis’ bigs get easy baskets. In the meantime, James Harden, Chris Paul, and LeBron James kept driving to the hoop. Team LeBron regained the lead 152-150. Team Giannis came back and tied it at 152. With Team LeBron leading 156-155, Anthony Davis, who is from the Southside of Chicago, was fouled. Davis had two shots to end the game. He missed the first one. He did not lose the second won to win the game for Team LeBron.
Game Notes and Stats- Kawhi Leonard received the NBA’s Kobe Bryant Trophy for being the MVP. The trophy was named in Kobe’s honor and will be presented as such every year in the future. Kawhi had this to say after receiving the award.”It means a lot to me,” Leonard said. “Words can’t even explain. Just making this the first Kobe Bryant MVP trophy, I wanna thank Kobe for everything he did for me. All the long talks and workouts. Thank you. This one’s for him.”
The leading scorer for Team LeBron was Kawhi Leonard. Kawhi tallied 30 points and knocked down eight threes. He needed to make one more three to tie Paul George’s record of nine. Chris Paul had 23, and he connected on seven threes. Anthony Davis had 20, Ben Simmons 17, and James Harden 11.
Team Giannis had seven players in double figures. Giannis led with 25, Kemba Walker 23, Joel Embiid 22, Rudy Gobert 21, Pascal Siakam 15, Kyle Lowry 13, and Trae Young 10.
It was a fun game to watch. The play in the fourth quarter made the game all the more enjoyable. The NBA probably will continue the format in the future.