Eric Patten @ericpatten | 2/24/12

ORLANDO–The NBA’s youth was on display Friday night at Amway Center.

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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Irving was voted the game’s MVP, finishing with 34 points on 11-of-12 shooting and connecting on all eight of his 3-point attempts. He also had nine assists.

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.”