Within the midst of a pandemic, this was assured of being an NBA All-Star Recreation like no different.
The stands have been largely empty. The group noise was largely piped in. There have been no A-list celebrities sitting courtside. Two gamers needed to sit out after getting haircuts.
However ultimately, it had a well-known really feel.
Staff LeBron gained once more.
Pulling down pictures from everywhere in the court docket, LeBron James’ powerhouse squad closed the primary half with a dominating run to arrange a 170-150 romp over Staff Durant within the league’s seventieth midseason showcase Sunday evening.
The highest vote-getters in every convention have picked the groups for the final 4 years, an obligation that James has earned each season.
He’s now 4-0, having defeated Stephen Curry’s squad in 2018 and groups chosen by Milwaukee’s two-time reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo the earlier two years.
This time, James drafted his two former adversaries and blew away Kevin Durant’s workforce.
“I feel he’s obtained a future as a GM,” stated Damian Lillard, one other of James’ impressed choices. “He at all times will get it proper.”
Antetokounmpo was the sport’s MVP after taking pictures 16 of 16 for 35 factors, even making all three of his makes an attempt past the 3-point stripe. It was essentially the most baskets with no miss in All-Star Recreation historical past.
“I’m simply having enjoyable,” the Greek star stated. “Typically once you’re having enjoyable and never fascinated about the result, you simply let your instincts take over.”
Curry chipped in with 28 factors, whereas Lillard had 32.
James spent a lot of the evening admiring his drafting ability from the bench. He performed lower than 13 minutes, scored simply 4 factors, and didn’t return to the court docket within the second half.
As a substitute, he munched a snack on the bench.
“I do know he was managing his minutes tonight,” Curry stated. “We had a good time, representing him as captain. It was a memorable evening for positive.”
It positive was for Curry, who gained the 3-point competitors beforehand, then went 8 of 16 from past the arc within the sport.
Lillard matched him, additionally making 8 of 16 from 3-point vary.
This All-Star Recreation positive was completely different than the earlier 69.
Decided to tug off an exhibition that’s large for TV income and the league’s worldwide model, the NBA staged the sport in a largely empty downtown enviornment, a made-for-TV extravaganza that was symbolic of the coronavirus period.
Regardless of in depth security protocols in place, two gamers did not even make it to tipoff. Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons have been dominated out as a result of they obtained haircuts from a barber who examined constructive for COVID-19.
The one good factor for Durant: He did not should take part on this shellacking, sitting out the sport with an ailing hamstring.
Bradley Beal led Staff Durant with 26 factors.
On an evening highlighting Traditionally Black Faculties and Universities, Staff LeBron swept the primary three quarters and cruised to the ultimate goal rating, incomes a complete of $750,000 for its charity, the Thurgood Marshall School Fund.
The sport obtained out of hand late within the second quarter.
With scant protection being performed, Staff LeBron took turns dunking off alley-oop passes. Chris Paul delivered back-to-back lobs that Lillard and Curry slammed by means of. Then, it was Paul on the receiving finish of a payback move from Curry.
After displaying it might deal with pictures up shut, Staff LeBron headed outdoors within the last seconds of the half.
Lillard pulled up for a 3-pointer from the half-court line. To not be outdone, Curry knocked down one from nearly the identical spot.
“It was a variety of enjoyable,” Lillard stated. “Me and Steph shoot a variety of 3s. We shoot deep 3s. It was 3, 3, 3, 3, 3.”
Amid the joyful moments, the ambiance at State Farm Enviornment was downright eerie in comparison with a traditional All-Star Recreation.
As a substitute of a packed home, with A-list celebrities crammed into prime courtside seats, this sport was attended by a smattering of hand-picked visitors. They’d loads of room to unfold out in a 17,000-seat venue that was primarily remodeled into a large tv studio, with socially distanced spectators stored removed from the court docket.
Towering video screens have been arrange behind the benches. Vegas-style lights flashed across the enviornment. Recorded crowd noise blared over the sound system. The leisure was offered by the host Atlanta Hawks, who did not have any gamers within the sport however have been represented by their cheerleaders, drumline and DJ.
To handle fears that one in every of its greatest occasions would turn into a super-spreader for a virus that has killed greater than a half-million Individuals, the NBA pared down its typical weekend-long ritual of extravagant events, gridlocked streets and other people watching
This All-Star Recreation was a one-night-only occasion, with a pair of ability competitions held shortly earlier than the sport and the Dunk Contest squeezed into the halftime break. The gamers flew in Saturday afternoon and have been largely confined to a close-by resort besides for his or her time on the court docket.
“That is when everybody in basketball everywhere in the world comes to at least one metropolis,” James stated earlier than the sport. “We’re capable of sit again and go, ‘Wow, that is the sport now we have constructed.’ It’s a fantastic weekend for all walks of life, on the ground and off the ground.
“However I am sitting right here in my resort room, remoted. My household’s not right here. I’m on my own. It’s simply completely different, to say the least, in comparison with earlier years.”
All-Star Weekend was crammed into a number of hours.
Through the pregame, Indiana ahead Domantas Sabonis defeated Orlando middle Nikola Vucevic within the Expertise Problem, redeeming final yr’s finals loss to Bam Adebayo. That was adopted by Curry knocking off Utah’s Mike Conley to seize the 3-Level Contest for the second time. The Warriors star added to the long-range title he gained in 2015.
At halftime, Portland’s Anfernee Simons defeated New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin within the Slam Dunk Contest, almost kissing the rim along with his successful throw-down. Cassius Stanley of the Indiana Pacers was eradicated within the opening spherical.
Staff Durant: Zion Williamson of New Orleans began the sport instead of Embiid. The Pelicans ahead had 10 factors. … Durant’s workforce heaved up 72 3-pointers, however made solely 27 (37.5%).
Staff LeBron: Paul had 16 assists, passing Magic Johnson’s report for many profession All-Star assists with 128. … Lillard ended the sport with one other lengthy 3-pointer. Curry was waiving to the spectators earlier than it even went in. … James’ workforce shot 63.6% from the sphere, together with 31 of 61 from 3-point vary.
The 71st All-Star Recreation can be held February 20, 2022, at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse in Cleveland. The 2023 sport is about for Salt Lake Metropolis, adopted by Indianapolis in 2024.
This story has been revealed from a wire company feed with out modifications to the textual content.