Wednesday, April 17, 2024

East sets scoring record in unforgettable NBA All-Star Game – The Washington Post

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INDIANAPOLIS — The NBA was hoping for a more intense and competitive All-Star Game. Instead, he had a record-breaking scoring outburst in an unforgettable blowout that ended unexpectedly with a wave of boos.

Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard and Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton led the Eastern Conference to a 211-186 victory over the Western Conference on Sunday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The East was the first team in All-Star Game history to score at least 200 points, breaking the previous record of 196 set by the West in 2016. The two teams’ combined score of 397 points was also a record.

The East’s impressive performance is considered a surprise, given that the West’s loaded roster included three MVPs – LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Nikola Jokic – in its starting lineup and a fourth, Stephen Curry, coming off the bench. But the East’s younger legs and hot outside shooting were more than enough to overcome the talent disparity on paper as Lillard and Haliburton combined to make 21 three-pointers.

Lillard, who won the three-point contest, and Haliburton, who led a trio of Pacers to a victory in the skills challenge, continued their All-Star momentum Saturday. Midway through the third quarter, the only drama was which of the East’s starting guards would take home MVP honors.

Although Haliburton helped seal the victory with two late three-pointers and a breakaway dunk, Lillard won the Kobe Bryant MVP Trophy with a team-high 39 points and a season-high 11 three-pointers. Haliburton finished with 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists, and his MVP snobbery drew loud boos from the home crowd.

Long live the three kings of the NBA

“I expect to [the boos]”said Lillard, who was the All-Star Game MVP for the first time in his eighth appearance. “We’re in his hometown, his building. He had a great game, but it’s an honor .Any time you have enough experience like that, you want to become MVP of the All-Star Game. To be able to come out with that is a special accomplishment.

Lillard received seven of 12 MVP votes; Haliburton received five.

“It could have gone either way,” said Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum, who won the All-Star Game MVP award last year. “Dame put on a show. I was happy for him. It was cool to be able to step back this year and be able to enjoy the show a little bit.

The NBA has spent months making a concerted effort to put on a more compelling spectacle after the 2023 All-Star Game in Salt Lake City was criticized for its lack of intensity. This competition suffered from a relative lack of headlining star power; Curry and Durant have been sidelined with injuries, while James and Giannis Antetokounmpo have played limited minutes with questionable health issues.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said Saturday that the league met with the National Basketball Players Association to explore adjustments that would help increase buy-in for stars drawn in many different directions during All-Star Weekend. The league’s think tank concluded that simpler was better, opting to return to the traditional East versus West format rather than having two captains draft the roster and returning to a standard four-quarter format instead of the “end Elam”, which used a complex approach to target scoring.

Additionally, the league scaled back pregame festivities by featuring players on the field rather than on an elaborate stage and featured Jennifer Hudson in a simpler act at halftime.

“People were unanimously critical of last year’s All-Star Game and felt it wasn’t a competitive game,” Silver said. “The feeling was that maybe…we got a little carried away with the entertainment aspect. … We have to get back to basketball. It’s about the game. This is ultimately how we will be judged.

Indiana, long hailed as a basketball mecca, seemed receptive to the changes, especially early in the evening. Indiana State Hall of Famer Larry Bird greeted the crowd with a “Indy, start your engines!” ” enthusiastic. And Pacers legend Reggie Miller took the microphone at center field before the game to reminisce about his 18-year career with Indiana.

“A lot of places consider themselves the birthplace of basketball, but Indiana is truly basketball country,” Miller said to loud applause.

But thoughtful structural changes didn’t produce a better balance between offense and defense: East and West scored at a breakneck pace from the jump. The East began to pull away before halftime and set records by hitting 42 three-pointers and attempting 97, a fitting perimeter assault during the modern NBA’s scoring boom.

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Haliburton made five three-pointers in the first four minutes, including a deep attempt from the NBA logo near center court. Lillard added six 3-pointers in the first half, hitting one over Durant from well beyond the arc.

“[Lillard’s performance] It was incredible,” said Antetokounmpo, the East captain. “It has remained hot since Saturday evening. You can tell he was going [MVP]. All we had to do as a team was get him the ball. He did what he does best: made a lot of threes.

Lillard, 33, who was traded by the Portland Trail Blazers last summer, didn’t slow down after halftime, hitting a three-point attempt from midcourt early in the third quarter and another in the last minute of the match.

“Once we got out there in the third, we made a lot of shots,” Lillard said. “Everyone was wondering what [scoring] the disk was. We discovered it, and then we pursued it.

James, who was nursing an ankle injury before the All-Star break, had eight points, four rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes before taking the stage for the second half. The Los Angeles Lakers star drew oohs and aahs as he threw down a pair of powerful dunks.

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“I’ve been seeking treatment the last few days, trying to get my ankle as strong and get back to where I feel confident that I can finish this last third of the season,” James said before the game. “I can go out and run around with the kids for a bit, then stop at some point to give my body, and more importantly my ankle, another opportunity to rest.”

With James out and Jokic coasting for much of the contest, the West lacked the firepower to get back into the contest and the NBA was denied the hard-fought crunch moment it hoped to produce. Minnesota Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns filled the West’s gaps, scoring a game-high 50 points off the bench.

The crowd remained largely calm as the teams traded baskets for more than a quarter of garbage time. As the East lead grew to over 25 points in the fourth quarter, a few fans in the upper bowl began chanting “Dee-fense!”

Their appeals proved in vain.

“I think [the All-Star Game] could be more competitive,” Lillard said. “Two hundred [points] is a lot. It just shows that we didn’t go out there and compete like I guess you would want us too or whoever would want us to do. That’s exactly what it is.

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