By Ryan Aravind
This year’s NBA All Star Game in Los Angeles proved to change the landscape of future all-star games moving forward. The changes that were made to the game this year were drastic compared to previous years. The top two players from both conferences that received the most votes from the fans would be nominated to captain a team rather than conferences facing off against each other. Lebron James and Stephen Curry were nominated as captains who would then draft their teams based on the remaining all-stars from both conferences. On top of that, the winning team would receive an incentive of $100,000 per player while the losing team gets $25,000. Throughout social media, numerous fans believed that Team Lebron would easily win the All Star game before the game had even started. Team Lebron consisted of the better big men in the league such as Anthony Davis, Demarcus Cousins, Andre Drummond, and Kevin Durant. Having the best 1-2 combo on their team, Team Stephen focused primarily on selecting great shooting with players such as Stephen Curry, James Harden, Klay Thompson, and Demar DeRozan.
The start of this game was rather strange compared to the previous games in the past where defensive plays were made in the very early minutes. Lebron James was determined from the beginning to make a defensive effort with a massive block of Giannis Antetokounmpo from the paint. Not only was James playing intensely on defense, but he all-around wanted to be the best player on the court as many fans see him as. James from the get go was determined when he went on the fast-break and immediately made a smooth bounce pass alley-oop to Anthony Davis to bring fans out of their seats within the first three minutes. The first quarter of the game was tightly contested throughout the majority of the quarter until Team Stephen sparked an offensive rally to close out the first quarter at 42-31. Team Lebron was having issues scoring from behind the arc as Team Stephen effortlessly hit three pointers from James Harden and Klay Thompson. The first quarter was more low scoring than last year’s game where 101 points were scored combined compared to 73 points which emphasizes how defensive minded the players were.
The beginning of the 2nd quarter was yet another rally from Team Stephen in which they increased their lead to 15 points around the 10-minute mark of the quarter. However, Team Lebron would then go on a 16-2 run within the next 2:36 which included back to back threes from James and Kemba Walker alley-ooping it to Lebron James. The reverse effect happened to Team Stephen as they struggled to hit the majority of their shots which were predominantly threes as Team James capitalized on their mistakes. The surprising takeaway from the end of the quarter was the half-court press that Team Lebron used which forced turnovers from the other side. The score at half-time had Team Stephen leading 78-76 which gave fans a game that brought excitement throughout.
Team Lebron started the 3rd quarter with firepower from Lebron James with the right to left hand layup through traffic and also a ferocious dunk that nobody wanted to defend. TNT, who covered the game, would display the major statistics from the game so far with Team
Lebron making 51% of their shots compared to Team Stephen at 43%. Both teams had made 13 threes despite Team Stephen attempting more three pointers. However, Team Lebron fouled Team Stephen which forced them to shoot free throws. Detroit Pistons Center Andre Drummond was impactful in the quarter with numerous dunks as the game became a 100-97 Team Stephen. The third quarter closed with Team Stephen pressing the accelerator as Stephen Curry was struggling from behind the line throughout the game. However, his play from within the paint where he pump faked the defender and pulled a euro step floater was the spark that they needed to close out the quarter at 112-109.
The final quarter looked like a runaway as Team Steph was bound to win as they had a 13-point lead with 6:36 left in the game. From that point onwards, Team Lebron was playing tight man-to-man defense to give themselves chance to win. They closed the gap to 5 points as Paul George and Lebron James came in with clutch shots. The close of the game consisted of back and forth scoring from both sides with Russell Westbrook getting an and 1 to make it 139-140 and then Antetokounmpo euro stepping to finish the dunk to make it 139-142. Lebron James down three points with less than two minutes left steps back behind the arc to tie the game at 144-144. Team Stephen would then shoot free throws as DeMar DeRozan would make 1 of 2. James would lay the ball on the next possession to give his team the lead by one. The next play, DeMar DeRozan would drive to the hoop to later throw an outlet pass in the corner that went out of bounds. As soon as the ball went out of bounds, Team Lebron takes the ball and throws a deep pass to Westbrook who lays it in on the right side to make it. With 10.7 seconds left in the game, Team Stephen inbounds the ball to Embiid who gives the ball off to Stephen Curry who dribbles it towards the right corner three. Curry tries to get a shot off, but is double teamed by both James and Durant. Curry passes it to DeRozan who is in the corner about to shoot the ball until Durant puts his hand in his way. DeRozan attempts a 360 degree stepback three that does not get off in time and Team Lebron celebrates as if they have won the NBA Championship. The final score of the game was 148-145.