NBA All-Star weekend kicked off on Friday night in Charlotte, starting with the much-anticipated Rising Stars Challenge.
The All-Star game of sorts pitted some of the best young talent in the league against each other, split up into Team World and Team USA.
While it was a close battle throughout most of the contest, filled with plenty of highlights expected from an All-Star game, it was Kyle Kuzma that led Team USA to a 161-144 win against Team World at the Spectrum Center.
Kuzma, who was named MVP of the game, finished with 35 points, six rebounds and five assists, shooting 15-of-27 from the field and 3-of-10 from the 3-point line.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) February 16, 2019
Kuzma has averaged 19.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game so far this season for the Los Angeles Lakers, his second in the league.
“Last year, the World team kicked our butts,” Kuzma said after the game, via TNT. “They came in here and beat us by 30. A lot of us kind of remember that, so we just wanted to get a win. And, there’s a $25,000 bonus for winning the game, so that’s good.”
— NBA on TNT (@NBAonTNT) February 16, 2019
Jayson Tatum finished with 30 points for Team USA, shooting 12-of-24 from the field. Trae Young added 25 points off the bench, shooting 6-of-11 from the 3-point line. Donovan Mitchell and Marvin Bagley added 20 points and 14 points, respectively.
Ben Simmons led Team World with 28 points, six assists and five rebounds, shooting an extremely efficient 14-of-17 from the field. Lauri Markkanen finished with 21 points, and Deandre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all added 15 points.
Even though the game doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things, Kuzma said there’s still a lot that can be taken from it. And most importantly, he said, he’s ready to get back and make a postseason push with the Lakers.
“At the end of the day, getting conditioning is a good thing,” Kuzma said, via TNT. “I’ve been sitting on my butt for a few days. Back in LA we have to go on a playoff push, so I’m just trying to get ready for that and get ready for the ride.”
Plenty of big time highlights
While Team USA, who lost the matchup last year, led most of the game, both sides had plenty of head-turning highlights throughout the contest.
Atlanta Hawks big man John Collins got the dunk contest started early on Friday night, and had several big slams throughout the contest.
His Hawks teammate Trae Young also found him for a perfect 360-ally-oop midway through the third quarter, proving to everyone that he’s ready to go for the dunk contest on Saturday night.
Bagley had a massive two-handed windmill dunk in the second quarter, cleaning up a miss with ease.
Markkanen and Luka Doncic connected early for Team World, too, when Doncic hit the Bulls forward with a no-look lob.
All-Star weekend will continue next on Saturday with the Skills Challenge, 3-point contest and slam dunk contest. The All-Star game will tip off on Sunday night to conclude the weekend.
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