In a United Center in Chicago that still had a few exclamations of fun and surprise to let go despite the polar cold outside, the opening night of this All-Star weekend ended with a contest of improvised dunks concluding the Rising Star Challenge. It must be said that there was no longer any suspense, Team USA having imposed its law after the break to win 151-131 against the world team. It is the largest American victory since this format was adopted in 2015. The Americans now lead four wins to two in this exercise.
Miles Bridges obtained the title of MVP of the meeting. The winger of the Charlotte Hornets played the role of detonator for Team USA, reversing the match in the third quarter (44-24), with some explosive dunks, including that for himself, after a pass with the board, that he went to look very far back. Bridges concluded the evening with 20 points, five rebounds and five assists. RJ Barrett, the New York Knicks Canadian, was the night’s top scorer with 29 points.
The most anticipated players were not outdone. Trae Young had an effective 4 of 8 at three points. Ja Morant was able to find Zion Williamson for some high-flying alley-oop. As for the New Orleans Pelicans rookie, he simply twisted the panel, just before half time, of an overpowered dunk of which he has the secret.
But the loudest cry of the evening was snatched by Luka Doncic from the buzzer of the first half. Joking with Young while he was putting the ball up in his court, the Dallas Slovenian stopped before taking his momentum to send a shot that took the board before returning, causing a friendly hug between the two players drafted in 2018.
Note that the evening had started with emotion, a first tribute having been paid to Kobe Bryant, who died on January 25 in a helicopter accident. After a video also celebrating the memory of David Stern, the former boss of the league who disappeared on January 1, Pau Gasol and Sue Bird spoke to the public. The Spaniard has repeatedly struggled to contain his emotion. A situation which should recur during the next two evenings of this All-Star weekend since many tributes are still planned for Bryant and his daughter Gianna.