CHICAGO -- Team U.S.A. beat Team World 151-131 in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night at the United Center. Here are five takeaways from what went down...
1. It was a good night for the Washington Wizards in Chicago.
For the first time since 1995, they had two players in the Rising Stars game - Rui Hachimura and Moe Wagner - and both of them played well. Hachimura was a standout with 14 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Eight of his points came in the first quarter.
Hachimura got many of his points on dunks, as he took advantage of the game's lack of defense to attack the rim. But he also mixed in some other plays including a midrange pull-up jumper in the second quarter which is his bread-and-butter but is not something you usually see in these games.
Most plays are dunks or threes because A) players want to create highlights and B) those are often the path of least resistance. Hachimura, though,
2. Wagner also had a nice showing, though the pregame introductions included the public address announcer mispronouncing his last name. He got his first name, Moritz, right. But he then pronounced Wagner like he would if it were Honus or Dajuan.
Wagner didn't start like Hachimura, but came in and quickly made a three and got two steals. He also got a few layups when hustling up the court in transition.
The only disappointment with Wagner was that he didn't take a charge, which is his signature move. He had two opportunities in the third quarter when Warriors rookie Eric Paschall tried to drive past him in isolation. If Wagner took a charge in an exhibition game it would have been absolutely hilarious.
Wagner finished with 16 points, which is plenty more than any expected he would have. All in all, it was a strong showing for both Hachimura and Wagner.
3. Zion Williamson had clearly been saving himself throughout the day. There was a Rising Stars practice in the afternoon and time after time he barely jumped when around the rim, often just finishing with layups.
It looked like he was carrying that approach into the Rising Stars game itself, too. He had some plays at the rim in the first quarter but mostly stuck to layups or casual dunks.
That all changed in the second quarter when Williamson threw down a series of alley-oops, one of them thrown from behind halfcourt by his former AAU teammate, Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant.
Ja Morant with the halfcourt lob to Zion, my goodness🔥pic.twitter.com/BMmp4Xta1a
— Hoop Central (@TheHoopCentral) February 15, 2020
By halftime, Williamson had thrown down about five dunks and one of them bent the basket. Seriously. This man nearly brought the hoop down.
this is the basket in The United Center after that Zion alley oop pic.twitter.com/tsBYJMClBJ
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) February 15, 2020
Today's NBA rims and backboards are much stronger than they used to be. You never see the glass shatter anymore, for instance. But Williamson is built differently and could force the NBA to fortify their hoops even more.
He had 14 points in 20 minutes.
4. Williamson was a crowd pleaser and so was Celtics rookie Tacko Fall and he didn't even play in the game. He was sitting courtside, two seats down from teammate Kemba Walker.
They showed Walker on the big screen first and he got a nice applause. Then, they showed Fall and the place went absolutely nuts.
It's amazing how much of a fan favorite he has become already. The guy has only played six NBA games. But apparently that's what happens when you're 7-foot-5 and have a name that is pronounced 'taco.' How could you not like him?
5. This year's Rising Stars game had what seemed like an unusual among A-list NBA players. Williamson, Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Morant alone are worth the price of admission.
Two of those guys (Doncic and Young) are All-Stars this year and the other two are likely to be ones in the near future. All four seem poised to be mainstays in the All-Star game for many years to come.
Yet, the United Center was only about 80 or so percent full. The annual showcase has never been a marquee event, but with those guys, one would think it would result in a sellout. The ticket prices must have been way too high.
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