• IF you came to the Rising Stars game expecting defense, you might have left disappointed. But there were plenty of dunks and interesting young stars in the making.
By Jeremy Woo
February 16, 2018

LOS ANGELES—The World Team smacked Team USA 155–124 on Friday night at the Rising Stars game, as All-Star weekend got underway on the West Coast. Here are the 10 things we’ll remember about this game.

1) There were too many dunks to count, 34 three-pointers, 32 turnovers and one mildly entertaining talent showcase Friday at the Staples Center. The World led by eight after the first, 19 at half, 30 after three quarters and 31 after four. So it went.

2) The game ended with Team USA poaching needless steals, then missing highlight-caliber dunk attempts. That should tell you enough most of what you need to know about the game, to be honest. The game’s MVP was Bogdan Bogdanovic, who drained seven threes on his way to 26 points, in addition to six assists and four rebounds, but Jaylen Brown actually led it in scoring with 35 in a losing effort.

3) It’s been a good month or so for Donovan Mitchell. The Jazz have won 11 straight, he’s playing his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation and an alley-oop to himself off glass in the first quarter served as a beautiful reminder of the fact that he could totally win the dunk contest on Saturday. 

There was also a sequence where he intercepted a full-court pass from Ben Simmons, took it back the other way and hit John Collins with a perfect alley-oop lob. Add subversive award race lobbying to Mitchell’s bag of skills.

4) I don’t know if Joel Embiid was on a minutes restriction—he only played nine—but if he was, I’m ok with it. Jerry Colangelo was hanging around courtside. It was more than a little suspicious. He’ll start the actual All-Star game on Sunday, thankfully, and told reporters after the game he wanted to win MVP.

At least it wasn’t for nothing. Embiid’s monstrous third-quarter face-up spin move to a two-handed jam in the lane might have been the highlight of the night.

5) The Laker trio of Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram predictably inspired a host of homecourt cheers. Lonzo didn’t play because he’s hurt. Maybe he was boycotting the fact Gelo and Melo were ineligible for the game.

As for Ball’s recent rap mixtape, Kuzma offered an early review: “We make fun of him because he’s like, a Kidz Bop rapper.”

6) Aesthetic-wise, the uniforms were a major win, paying homage to the Buffalo Braves (yeah, the Clippers once played in Buffalo) and Minneapolis Lakers (there are actually Lakers in Minnesota). Incidentally, the retro looks are way cleaner than the actual All-Star jerseys, which went all-in on black-and-white chic and team-specific merch possibilities at the expense of color and creativity (which is the only thing anyone will ever remember about All-Star jerseys anyway). 

7) Leadership points go to Victor Oladipo, who sat next to the World Team bench in an orange Domantas Sabonis World jersey. Pacers, Ubuntu. There’s no better way to make a new best friend than getting traded somewhere with that person. Other Pacers hanging out included Myles Turner and for some reason, Alex Poythress. Just wait until All-Star hits Indy in 2021.

8) Jaden Smith performed at halftime. There was fake mist, there was denim on denim and there were like 16 chains on his neck. He rhymed “Elvis” with “pelvis.” I have now witnessed both Jaden and Willow perform live and can live the rest of my life in contentment.

9) If I were playing in the Rising Stars game and Guy Fieri were sitting courtside, I’d honestly just celebrate with him after every basket. Seems like a missed opportunity for someone. It wouldn’t even have to be a cooking celebration.

10) The Rising Stars game tends to devolve quickly every year, but it’s especially evident right now how much young talent is legitimately thriving around the league. A lot of these guys are going to earn max-level deals one day. It has nothing to do with the score, and everything to do with the talent. If you hadn’t watched a single game all season, you could have tuned in for some of the Rising Stars game and figured out the NBA is in great hands. That in itself is a win.

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