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Basketball

NBA All-Star Recap (’21)

I spent my morning watching replays of dunk contest from years past and I couldn’t help but get excited for the All-Star events. Admittedly, I wasn’t at first. A big gathering in Georgia isn’t the best idea in the middle of a pandemic, but I do love this game and for better or worse, I usually stand with the league. I’ve still got a wrestling PPV to get through today, so let’s get to the recap!

We kicked things off with the Skills Challenge. For some reason, Chris Paul and Luka Doncic got a first round bye? You’d think with only 6 competitors that we would do a full bracket, but whatever! Originally, I had a bet on CP3, but I cashed out when I heard he had the bye. You don’t want to be going in cold! I ended up betting on Vucevic. I also placed a wager on Randle. I almost went Sabonis, but went Randle instead because he is on my fantasy team.

In Round 1, Sabonis eliminated Randle and Vucevic took care of Covington. No disrespect to Covington, but he never had a chance in this contest.

In Round 2, Sabonis made short work of Doncic and thanks to a blown layup (again!) Chris Paul was eliminated by Vucevic. I told you that you don’t want to go in cold!

In the final round, Sabonis beat Vucevic to be crowned champion! Sabonis never looked like he was going to lose, right from the get go. Not a bad profit if you were on him at 8 to 1 odds. Apparently, Sabonis was the only player who was warming up and practicing before hand. I guess he wanted this one bad!

On to the 3 point shootout, usually the highlight of All-Star Saturday Night. This year, it’s just pre game entertainment for the game, but still likely the most anticipated event of the night.

Jaylen Brown was the first to go, posting a very low score of 17. Lavine and Mitchell joined him on the chopping block, each of them posting 22 points. I bet on 3 people to win, can you guess which 3? Yup, Lavine, Mitchell and Brown. I picked the wrong Celtic and the wrong Jazz!

Jayson Tatum advanced with a score of 25, Mike Conley had 28 and Steph Curry had a very impressive 31 points! It was incredible to watch.

In round 2, Tatum followed in the footsteps of his Boston teammate and only scored 17 points. Bye-bye! Conley remained hot and put up 27 points. Curry had a slow start and it came down to the very final shot. Curry hit it and won with a score of 28! I was tempted to bet on everyone else to beat him, I’m glad I didn’t!

Time for the first half of the All-Star game. It will be played just the same as last year. The score will reset every quarter. Each team will play to win each quarter, like it is a mini game. For the final quarter, they get all their points back and are given a target score. There is no time limit, it is just first to reach the score. The target score will be calculated by taking the team with the highest score and adding 24 points. Cool?

The winning team of each quarter will receive $150,000 for their charity of choice. The winning team of the game will receive $300,000, also donated to the charity of their choice. Team LeBron had selected the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. Team Durant selected the United Negro College Fund. If you want to learn more about either or to donate to them, you can use these links.

Ways to Donate to Help Students | UNCF

Online Gift – Thurgood Marshall College Fund (tmcf.org)

Finally, before we start both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were unable to attend the All-Star game due to contact tracing. Hopefully both of them and all of the 6ers are doing ok. Also, there is a rumour going around that Blake Griffin is soon to join the Nets? Ugh.

In the first quarter, Team LeBron defeated Team Durant by 1 point, 40-39. I am tempted to say that the defense was tighter than it normally is. That isn’t saying a lot, but I felt that there were more steals than normal. And a few blown dunks, particularly by Zion. LBJ also had one. I can’t credit any of that to defense, I think it was just a case of the yips.

Curry was shooting the ball really well, he was clearly carrying some momentum from winning the contest. He even turned around and celebrated before one of his triples went in. Nice! Giannis was also feeling good and gunning for the MVP award.

Team LeBron also won the second quarter, this team by a whopping score of 60 to 41. It felt like Team Durant had mailed it in already. I noticed that Team LeBron were having a great team and getting into the game whereas Team KD seemed to just be going through the motions. I guess that’s what happens when you have Harden and Irving on one team. Nobody likes playing with those guys!

The second quarter was pretty fun though! The jump ball was between Chris Paul and Mike Conley. CP3 won possession (after a few false starts). Jaylen Brown drove on his teammate, Jayson Tatum. Tatum was called for a foul and wasn’t happy. He had a half hearted argument with a nearby official. I love seeing guys argue with a ref at an All-Star game. I’m sure Brown will remind Tatum who won the exchange.

We saw some sweet dancing from Jokic. CP3 stole the ball from Harden and I wondered if there was any lingering hatred between them. Nothing came of it though. Curry had a dunk! He hung on the rim like he had never been there before. Has he dunked before?? CP3 immediately followed it up with a dunk of his own!

Speaking of back to back cool plays, Lillard it a half court shot and Curry immediately followed up with a half court shot of his own! Lillard’s was longer though.

Curry and Giannis both remained hot throughout the second quarter. Jokic jokingly got into it with Giannis after the latter dunked the ball instead of passing it to the former. Jokic vowed to not pass Giannis the ball again.

Team Lebron went on a 21-2 run in the final few minutes of the second quarter. It felt like Team KD had given up, so it was no wonder that Team LeBron were competing against one another. They had to get the competition from somewhere!

Half-time! This years half time show was the dunk contest. Anfernee Simons, Obi Toppin and Cassius Stanley. The judges were : ‘Nique, Dee Brown, Jason Richardson, Spud Webb and Josh Smith. In round one, each dunker was given 2 dunks. The 2 best advanced to the final round, where it was one dunk each.

In round one, Cassius Stanley did the Zach Lavine from 2015. The ball went from his right hand, between the legs, to the left for the slam. He nailed it on his first attempt! It was very smooth, but the judges weren’t really into it. He received a score of 44.

Obi Toppin did a bounce pass through his own legs and slammed it home, also on his first go. The judges liked this a little bit more and Toppin scored 48.

Simons closed the followed with an impressive display of athleticism. He had a mini ring (ball holder?) placed on the backboard, 12 feet above the ground. The ball was placed on that. He leapt up, grabbed it and dunked it home! First attempt and he achieved a score of 46.

For his second dunk, it looked like Stanley was going for a hybrid between a Lavine and Gordon dunk. It looks like he was heavily inspired by Lavine. Unfortunately, he couldn’t pull it off. He switched up his plans and dropped in a solid dunk for a score of 37, giving him 81 first round points.

Toppin jumped over his dad and Julius Randle for his second dunk. It took 2 attempts, but the big wind up helped score some extra points with the judges. He landed a score of 46, giving him a total of 94 points.

Last but not least, Simons put on a McGrady jersey and went for the 360, double clutch, like we saw from McGrady in 2000. Honestly, I thought Simons did it better! He nailed it on his first go and achieved a score of 49, tallying up 95 points. Stanley is eliminated.

In the championship round, Toppin passed the ball behind his back, from left to right and tried to dunk from the free throw line. He was a good foot inside and it took him two attempts, but was still impressive nonetheless. No scores were awarded this round, the judges were just watching both and then picking a favourite.

Simons went up high and dunked the ball in. It looked pretty standard until you watched it back in slow motion. He got up so high, his mouth was close enough to kiss the rim! Not literally, because he would smash his teeth, but he did make the kissing face. Once again, Simons dunked it on his first attempt.

The judges decided that Simons was the winner, by a score of 3 votes to 2. Simons won the slam dunk competition and made me some money! Thanks!

Back to the game for the second half. Once again, Team LeBron picked up the win. At least it was a bit closer this time, the final score being 46-45.

Giannis basically locked up the MVP award in the third quarter and remained perfect from the field. Personally, I feel he missed a dunk earlier, but they said that was a turnover, not a missed shot. He banked in a 3 and rattled the heck out of the backboard. He did not call it, but we aren’t on the streets so it counted. He received bonus points for pretending to ride a motorcycle back up the court.

Jaylen Brown hit a Dirk Nowitski-esque jumper. Gobert was racking up a few rebounds. Lillard missed a half court shot by a mile, but I’ll let it slide. The announcer probably needed a break, he was constantly saying “player x for threeeeeeeeee!”. I love the Atlanta announcer.

Time for the final quarter. Everyone gets their points back and we race to the final target score. The target score was 170. Team LeBron started on a score of 146, Team KD with a score of 125. Usually this is when it gets good, but Team Durant were just in too deep of a hole and never had a chance.

Team LeBron came out a bit slowly and weren’t playing much defense. It didn’t really matter though. It was already over. Unfortunately, this was one of the worst All-Star games in recent memory. I blame Team Durant entirely.

It was also hard to remain engaged with the butt-kicking. It was a very long day, usually we do this over a weekend, not all in one night. The good news was, the fourth quarter didn’t take long. Lillard nailed a half court shot to get his team to 170 points.

Giannis remained perfect, setting an NBA record with 16 of 16 field goals made, on his way to the MVP award. I feel sorry for the UNCF, because Team Durant did them no favours!

Did you guys enjoy the All-Star festivities? Let me know your favourite part in the comments. I’m off to watch AEW’s Revolution! I’m super excited for that and I will be back to recap it later.

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