On Sunday, Feb. 17, the NBA season hit its turning point with the annual All-Star Weekend. This is a weekend dedicated to the best players in the league as well as new players that are working to make their mark. For the biggest event, Los Angeles Lakers small forward LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo were selected as the captains for each of the respective teams. With both teams having a strong star-studded roster including iconic veterans like Dallas Mavericks center Dirk Nowitzki and shooting guard Dwyane Wade, the All-Star contest didn’t disappoint.
For Team Giannis, the starting five were Golden State Warriors’ leader and point guard Stephen Curry, the Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid, Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George, and Charlotte Hornets shooting guard Kemba Walker. For Team LeBron, a familiar pairing and well-awaited reunion took place. Starting at point guard, the Boston Celtics’ Kyrie Irving returned to LeBron’s side. Rounding out the rest of the roster were the Golden State Warriors’ scoring powerhouse forward Kevin Durant, offensive threat in shooting guard for the Houston Rockets James Harden, and the Toronto Raptors new All-Star Kawhi Leonard. Wade played for Team LeBron while Nowitzki suited up to play on Team Giannis.
The tip-off was won by Team Giannis who took off on an early lead. Nowitzki gave it his all in his 14th and final All-Star Game appearance. Despite his age, the 40-year-old veteran went three for three beyond the arc, in only four minutes of play. At the half Team Giannis led by a solid 13 points, despite being outscored in the second quarter. Both Giannis and Bucks’ teammate small forward and shooting guard Khris Middleton contributed 28 of the 53 points scored by the team in the quarter. Antetokounmpo and Middleton eased off the gas in the later quarters, letting their teammates focus on the scoring.
Team LeBron took off in the second half initiated by an alley-oop pass off the backboard from Wade received by LeBron, who slammed the ball down to supercharge the team and the crowd. This fired the team up with Portland Trail Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard leading the charge. The Trail Blazers star drained six shots on 17 attempts from beyond the arc, contributing a solid 18 points from the bench for Team LeBron. Lillard also hit two clutch back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game midway through the third quarter. At the end of the third quarter, Team Lebron was up with a score of 132-131.
The fourth quarter had both teams playing slightly more seriously, with Team Giannis answering with five straight points and a four-point play from Curry to put them back in the lead. This lead didn’t last long however, with Team LeBron going on a 13-0 run to answer back. This lead only increased thanks to plays by LeBron, and Harden as the quarter went on for a final score of 178-164.
Despite Giannis’ stellar performance of 38 points and 11 rebounds, he didn’t win MVP. Instead, this honor went to none other than Durant. Although Giannis led both rosters with these two statistics. In the end, he didn’t win the game or come in as clutch in the fight for the comeback. Durant scored a total of 31 points to bag his second All-Star MVP title.
This game lived up to the hype offensively, showing great connections between players that we have only seen compete against one another until now. As usual, it was a game with hardly any defense. This was an extremely entertaining game, and with LeBron taking home his second team captain win, we can only imagine who will step up to lead against him next year.