This year’s NBA All-Star game was different than it has been in years past making things (slightly) more interesting to watch as the 2018 All-Star Weekend concluded. Players from the Eastern and Western Conferences were elected, and LeBron James and Stephen Curry were named as captains of their respective teams. From there, James and Curry made their selections mixing East and West, pitting teammates against one another–something the All-Star game has never seen until now. Before the game, Charles Barkley said that he hoped this year’s competition would bring more excitement given the new twist in the lineups.
Each team captain chose a charity to play for making the competition a little more interesting. James chose the After School All-Stars that provides comprehensive after school programs that keep children safe and help them succeed in school and life. Curry chose the Brotherhood Crusade which is a 48-year old grassroots organization with a vision of improving quality of life and meeting the unmet needs of low-income, undeserved, under-represented and disenfranchised individuals in the Los Angeles area. The winning team stands to donate $350,000 to their charity, while the losing team will contribute $150,000.
In case you missed it, here are the lineups for both teams in the competition.
Team LeBron competing for the After School All-Stars:
Starters: LeBron James (F) Cleveland Cavaliers, DeMarcus Cousins injured (C) New Orleans Pelicans, Anthony Davis (F/C) New Orleans Pelicans, Kevin Durant (F) Golden State Warriors, Kyrie Irving (G) Boston Celtics.
Reserves: LaMarcus Aldridge (F) San Antonio Spurs, Bradley Beal (G) Washington Wizards, Goran Dragic (G) Miami Heat, Andre Drummond (C) Detroit Pistons, Paul George (F) Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Love (F/C) Cleveland Cavaliers, Victor Oladipo (G) Indiana Pacers, Kristaps Porzingis (F/C) New York Knicks, Kemba Walker (G) Charlotte Hornets, John Wall (G) Washington Wizards, Russell Westbrook (G) Oklahoma City Thunder.
Coach: Dwane Casey Toronto Raptors
Team Stephen competing for the Brotherhood Crusade:
Reserves: Jimmy Butler (G) Minnesota Timberwolves, Draymond Green (F) Golden State Warriors, Al Horford (F/C) Boston Celtcs, Damian Lillard (G) Portland Trail Blazers, Kyle Lowry (G) Tortono Raptors, Klay Thompson (G) Golden State Warriors, Karl-Anthony Towns (C) Minnesota Timberwolves.
Coach: Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets
Team LeBron started James, Durant, Davis, Irving, and Westbrook in the white Nike Jumpman special edition All-Star jerseys while team Stephen started Curry, Harden, Antetokounmpo, DeRozan, and Embiid in black. As the game begin, things looked more like an episode of Shaqtin’ a Fool than an NBA All-Star game, but they soon kicked into gear with each team competing hard for the charity they chose to represent. While defense was a far cry from what you might see at a regular NBA game, there was certainly more physicality to start the game that we’ve seen in years past.
The score was tied at the midway mark in the first quarter when the reserves came in changing the lineup to more of a small ball focus with the addition of Thompson, and Lowry for Team Stephen, and Victor Oladipo for Team LeBron. A couple of air balls from Aldridge and Westbrook left a wane of energy in the arena, and team LeBron took a timeout with just over 2 minutes left with Team Stephen up by 6. Team Stephen extended their lead to 11 heading into the second quarter led by Karl-Anthony Towns with 11 points.
So quiet in Staples Center it feels like the crowd is trying to eavesdrop on the celebrities' conversations.
— Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) February 19, 2018
Drummond set the pace of the 2nd quarter with a block on a dunk attempt by Antetokounmpo, but the Greek Freak answered back with a fast break to draw a foul. Walker got the fans out of their seats with an alley-oop to James for a monster dunk, and they chased that by a few three-pointers to bring Team Stephen’s lead back down to just 1 point on a 16-2 run. Team Stephen maintained the lead by just 2 points heading into half-time 78-76 with James and Thompson leading their team with 15 points each.
The beginning of the 3rd was fairly scoreless apart from an uncontested three from Embiid. The energy from both teams was tangibly low, and a glimpse of Curry enjoying some popcorn on the bench was a perfect representation of the level of enthusiasm the players had for the game. With so much on the line for the charities each team represented, the expectations of effort went unmet as defense once again became completely optional. However, Oladipo jump started the effort with a fast-break and a dunk pulled out of his dunk contest repertoire. Curry hit a three with just under 30 seconds to go in the quarter putting team Stephen up by 3 heading into the 4th led by Towns with 17, and Thompson and Embiid each with 15.
— T/L Sports Media (@TLSportsMedia) February 19, 2018
The final quarter of the game saw Team Stephen pick up the pace to separate themselves with a 13 point lead. However, Team LeBron turned up the heat catching up to within 1 point approaching the 3 minute mark in the quarter. Embiid did his best to protect the rim, but Irving and Westbrook worked together to get past the big man to keep pace with Team Stephen. James muscled his way to the rim to tie the score at 144, but an out of bounds call was made incorrectly and Team Stephen got an extra possession when the ball clearly went off on Embiid’s foot. Team LeBron was unable to capitalize on their next possession courtesy of Embiid under the rim. Fortunately for Team LeBron, two layups by James and Westbrook pushed them to a 3-point lead with just 10 seconds to play. Team LeBron locked Team Stephen up on their final possession to secure the win 148-145.
While this game was certainly an offensive showcase, it came down to defense at the end and Team LeBron brought it home by making stops when they needed to. A total of 9 Team Lebron’s scored in double figures led by James, Durant and George. A total of 8 players scored in double figures for Team Stephen led by DeRozan, Lillard and Embiid.
Despite multiple air balls, and many lulls, this year’s All-Star game was far more exciting than it has been in recent years. I dare say that defense may just be back for the NBA All-Stars (sort-of).