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Team Giannis guard Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors drives against Team LeBron forward Domantas Sabonis of the Indiana Pacers and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns during the third quarter of the 2020 NBA All Star Game at United Center.
Pascal Siakam of Team Giannis dribbles the ball while being guarded by Chris Paul of Team LeBron in the fourth quarter during the 69th NBA All-Star Game at the United Center on February 16, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois.
CHICAGO — Like playground rules, it was next basket wins at the revamped NBA all-star game.
Unfortunately, that victory came via a made free throw, a boring ending to a thrilling night. Hometown kid Anthony Davis sunk it after he was fouled by Kyle Lowry, the six-time Raptors all-star, who had made some great late plays to get the game that far. Davis missed his first shot, but nailed the second and Team LeBron earned the 157-155 win.
Kawhi Leonard led all scorers with 30 points, including eight three pointers and earned the first renamed Kobe Bryant all-star MVP trophy.
Giannis Antetokounmpo had 25, Kemba Walker, LeBron James and Chris Paul 23. Toronto Raptors guard Lowry had 13, along with eight assists and Pascal Siakam had 15 in his first all-star start.
“That was extremely fun,” James said afterward and he sure was right.
The night began with all-time great Magic Johnson taking the mic to pay tribute to David Stern and Bryant, the two NBA icons who both died in the last two months. Chicago native Jennifer Hudson followed with a stirring and instantly iconic rendition of ‘For all we know’ in Bryant’s honour.
The game that followed was nearly as good. It was the first all-star contest played under new rules which were aimed at making it more interesting and hard-fought.
The winner of each of the first three quarters donated to charities, while the team with the highest score through three had an advantage of being closer to that score plus 24 points (to honour Bryant) which would determine the winner.
Team LeBron won the first quarter 53-41. As a result, Team LeBron’s designated community-based organization, Chicago Scholars, received the $100,000 charity award, much to the delight of the kids seated near the court who were cheering raucously. Team Giannis followed with a 51-30 second quarter win to raise $100,000 for After School Matters and the teams tied the third frame, with the money carrying over to the fourth.
The game featured the first alley-oop dunk of veteran and NBA Player’s Association president Chris Paul’s career; A Kawhi Leonard tribute to the 3-point shootout (seven three-pointers in the first half alone); A Trae Young halfcourt buzzer-beater to end the first half; Kyle Lowry doing what he does so often for Toronto — leading his team on a huge run by doing a little bit of everything. Lowry later trying to take a charge on LeBron and also getting man-handled by Anthony Davis; Utah’s Rudy Gobert playing like a prime Dikembe Mutombo by rejecting foray after foray to the rim, then going an un-Mutombo-like 6-for-6 from the field in the third quarter and league MVP favourite Giannis Antetokounmpo looking unstoppable at both ends of the floor, including a block of a James attempt and minutes later of a Davis layup attempt.
The teams tied the third quarter, meaning an extra $100,000 was pushed forward to the fourth. Team Giannis led 133-124. Add 24 points and it meant first to 157 points would be the winner.
When asked by Postmedia whether an all-star game should be able to end in that fashion, Siakam had a quick answer. “Yeah. I think we definitely can’t win on a free throw, Siakam said. “Like, that can’t be a way to end the game. So yeah, we were trying to complain there and get that (call overturned), but it is what it is,” he said.
During the player introductions, Team Giannis head coach Nick Nurse only clapped for his Toronto Raptors players. Then he put Lowry out there a lot with Siakam and Antetokounmpo in the games’ most high stakes moments
The most Raptor moment of the game came in the fourth quarter of the tight contest. Siakam threw a pass away and it was corralled by human interception machine Kawhi Leonard who took off the other way. Minutes earlier, Lowry had unsuccessfully tried to take a charge on LeBron. This time he stepped in and was run over by his former teammate Leonard, who was called for the offensive foul.
The fourth quarter was incredible theatre. It was hard-fought, players were incensed at times with the officiating — just like in a normal game! – and it came down to the wire, tied at 152, before James Harden drew a foul on Antetkounmpo, resulting in a pair of free throws.
James drove and got a goaltend call on Antetokounmpo to bring his team a point away from victory. But the play was overturned after a replay.
Lowry drew a charge on Harden, who hit what would have been the game-winner, but got called for an offensive foul at the other end and Harden blocked a Siakam attempt, which led to Lowry’s foul on Davis and the anticlimactic ending.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020