The best sophomores and rookies in the league, divided into squads selected by honorary coaches Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley, dazzled a crowd of 17,125 with enough dunks to fill a decade’s worth of highlight films.
In the end, though, it wasn’t a behind-the-back throw down by John Wall or alley-oop to Paul George, but the long-range perfection of Cavaliers rookie Kyrie Irving that led Team Chuck wire-to-wire over Team Shaq, 146-133, in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.
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Asked if he’d ever had a night shooting like that, Irving said, “No, it’s never occurred in my career. You know, it’s kind of unfortunate that it comes in an All-Star Game.”
George and Wall, who were also members of Team Chuck, had 23 and 17 points, respectively; most coming on dunks in transition. However, despite only playing 10 minutes, Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin, a member of Team Shaq, arguably received the most rousing ovations with two high-flying alley oops from Spanish sensation Ricky Rubio and an off-the-backboard pass to himself that resulted in a tomahawk slam with his right hand.
“It’s important to come out and have fun and compete a little bit,” said Griffin, who had 10 points, all on dunks or layups. “It’s an honor to play in this game and these fans come for a reason and you don’t want to not play hard or not go hard just because it’s an All-Star game.”
Team Chuck, playing with a definitive size advantage over the three point-guard lineup on the floor for Team Shaq, jumped out to an 8-0 lead on three baskets from DeMarcus Cousins and never trailed. The closest the game got was 53-47 late in the first half.
Arguably, Wall’s best dunk was on a fast break in the second half when he wrapped the ball behind his back and threw it down with one hand… The team’s combined to shoot 61 times from 3-point range. They made 23… Jeremy Lin played nine minutes and had two points on 1-for-4 shooting. His Team Shaq teammate (and Knicks teammate) Landry Fields scored 16 points off the bench… During a first-half timeout Lin’s parents were show on the in-arena “Kiss Cam.”