2018 All-Star Sunday: Oladipo Makes All-Star Debut
Wheat Hotchkiss Feb 18, 2018 11:55 PM ET
Editor's Note: Pacers.com's Wheat Hotchkiss is in Los Angeles for NBA All-Star Weekend. Each day, he'll be chronicling the Pacers' contingent at All-Star Weekend with a running blog from L.A.Pacers guard Victor Oladipo realized a lifelong dream on Sunday night at the Staples Center, appearing in his first NBA All-Star Game.
Oladipo played 15 minutes, scoring seven points on 3-of-8 shooting and also collecting two rebounds, three assists, and three steals for Team LeBron in a 148-145 win over Team Stephen.
"Simply amazing," Oladipo said of the experience. "Obviously (it was) my first one, it was a little hectic, but I enjoyed it. It was a great experience and I'm looking forward to next year."
Oladipo checked in for the first time in the latter half of the first quarter and instantly made an impact. On his first possession, Oladipo came up with a steal and threw an impressive full-court bounce pass with his right hand to LeBron James, who then one-timed a dish to Bradley Beal for an easy dunk.
Minutes later, Oladipo knocked down a mid-range jumper on his first attempt of the night. Oladipo missed his next three shots, however, and Team LeBron headed into the second quarter trailing, 42-31.
ALL-STAR CENTRAL: Complete Coverage at Pacers.com/AllStar »Team LeBron fell behind by 15 points in the second quarter, but then immediately responded with a 13-0 run.
When Oladipo checked back in with 2:21 remaining in the half, his team trailed by 10. But he helped Team LeBron close the half with a 16-8 run to make it just a 78-76 deficit at the break. Oladipo picked up another steal and knocked down a 3-pointer during that sequence.
Oladipo played the second half of the third quarter, dishing out three assists and also showing off the hops that have earned him two invites to the Slam Dunk Contest. Alone in the open court after his third steal of the night, Oladipo rocked the cradle for a two-handed reverse slam that drew one of the louder reactions of any play all night.
Nonetheless, Team Stephen maintained a narrow advantage, taking a 112-109 lead into the fourth quarter.
Oladipo did not appear in the dramatic final period, which saw Team Stephen go up by 13 points before Team LeBron rallied, cutting the deficit to one point on three occasions before finally tying the game at 144 on James' 3-pointer with 1:31 remaining.
Oladipo's teammates got a stop, but couldn't convert any of three looks at the rim on the other end. Former Pacers forward Paul George then fouled DeMar DeRozan, who made one of two foul shots to put Team Stephen back in front with 41.2 seconds to play.
Team LeBron finally moved in front seconds later, as former teammates Kyrie Irving and James connected for the go-ahead layup with 34.5 seconds left. After a DeRozan turnover, James found a streaking Russell Westbrook for a breakaway dunk with 10.7 seconds remaining.
Team Stephen had a look to send the game into overtime against Team LeBron's suffocating defense.
James was voted as the game's MVP after narrowly missing out on a triple-double. He finished with a game-high 29 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go along with 10 rebounds and eight assists.
DeRozan and Damian Lillard led Team Stephen with 21 points each.
"I think we put on a show," Oladipo said. "Obviously the end got very interesting. People were in it, the crowd was in it, the players were in it. That's what it's all about. That's what the fans wanted to see."
This was the first year with a new format to the All-Star Game. Instead of pitting the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference, fans voted for one captain from each conference (James and Stephen Curry) who then drafted teams from the pool of players voted as All-Stars by the fans, media, fellow players, and coaches.
The draft was not televised and the draft order was not publicly revealed, but many players and fans alike have campaigned for the draft to become a TV event next year in Charlotte.
"I don't see why not," Oladipo said. "It's up to the fans. If the fans want to televise it, that would be cool. I think the fans should vote on whether it should be televised or not."
Overall, Oladipo had nothing but positive reviews of his first stint as an All-Star and expressed a strong desire to make it an annual occurrence.
"I didn't know what to expect coming into the weekend, honestly," Oladipo said. "But it was definitely an amazing experience and humbling. It's kind of an infectious feeling. It just makes you want it over and over again. I've just got to continue to keep working hard so I can have that opportunity."
Mad Ants' Jones Wins G League Dunk Contest
Oladipo came up short in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest on Saturday night, but Pacers Sports & Entertainment did have a dunk champion at 2018 All-Star Weekend. Mad Ants forward DeQuan Jones, who was invited to training camp with the Pacers last fall, took home the title in the 2018 G League Slam Dunk contest on Sunday afternoon at the Verizon Up Arena at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
Jones and the Iowa Wolves' Michael Bryson both advanced to the finals out of the field of five dunkers. Jones then defeated Bryson in the finals, which was held at halftime of the G League International Challenge.
"It feels good, man," Jones said after his victory. "I'm blessed and fortunate to come out here and represent the Mad Ants here at All-Star Weekend."
Though he seemed confident throughout the competition, Jones admitted afterwards that he did not have a real game plan and freelanced each dunk as the competition progressed.
"It's tough to plan certain dunks because somebody before you may do the same dunk," Jones said. "So you kind of have to have a wide variety of dunks. I was honestly just winging it."
For Jones, the weekend was a welcome escape from the grind of a professional season. His wife joined him in Los Angeles, as did fellow Mad Ants teammate Trey McKinney-Jones, who was initially slated to play in the G League International Challenge, but was a late scratch from that exhibition.
"It's wonderful," Jones said. "I can't really put it into words. Just being in the presence of great players, great coaches, great basketball minds, it's definitely an experience that I'll take with me the rest of my life."