Yesterday’s 2021 NBA All-Star Game was an awesome way to break up the season and provide an additional jolt of excitement.  Team LeBron took on Team Durant in an amazing battle in Atlanta, and basketball fans weren’t disappointed with the action.  With the game’s conclusion, the second half of the season will get started this week and it’s time for press on as the league looks for a successful run to the finals.

Team LeBron Takes Charge

Team Durant produced some awesome numbers yesterday, with Bradley Beal putting 26 and Kyrie Irving adding 24.  Jayson Tatum and James Harden each had 21, but the combined effort wasn’t enough to stop Team LeBron.  With Giannis Antetokounmpo setting the bar at 35 points for the game, his effort and the 32 points by Damian Lillard, along with the 28 by Stephen Curry, were too much, and Team LeBron won, 170-150.

Just like last year, the score was reset at the end of each of the first three quarters, with teams competing to win the quarter for charitable causes.  This year, the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, the UNCF (United Negro College Fund), the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education and Direct Relief (Fund for Health Equity) were the recipients.   The target score was 170, and Team LeBron pulled ahead with a 146-125 lead before having 24 points added automatically, in memory of Kobe Bryant, just like last year.

Too Hot To Handle

Team Durant tried to find its rhythm in the fourth quarter after falling behind and started the period on a solid 9-0 run.  However, Lillard then picked up 11 points, including the three-pointer that helped seal the deal for Team LeBron.  That was part of a 24-point run in the quarter that continued to show Team LeBron’s dominance, and it was enough to push the team to the 170 target.

Because of his 35 points in the game, the Greek Freak was awarded the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award.  His performance was the best of the night for any player as he went 16 for 16 from the field.  If he can put up those numbers for the Milwaukee Bucks as the second half of the NBA season gets going, the Bucks have a good shot at making a deep run in the postseason.

Sabonis Finds His Skills Revenge

Last year, Domantas Sabonis made an appearance in the Skills Challenge and was able to run deep before falling to Bam Adebayo.  This time around, the Indiana Pacers forward wouldn’t be denied, walking away with the title after defeating Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic.  Sabonis, who would later play for Team LeBron in the All-Star Game, had no difficulty in the first round, easily overcoming New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, sending him to the semifinals against Luka Doncic.

The Dallas Mavericks guard struggled while Sabonis continued bringing his A Game, setting up the final battle between Vucevic and Sabonis.  It was a tight race, with Vucevic taking a slight lead early on, but Sabonis didn’t give up and fought for the title.  He picked it up on a crucial shot, connecting on his fourth three-point attempt to win.

Anything But A Slam Dunk

Sabonis’ teammate Cassius Stanley participated in the Slam Dunk Contest, held during halftime during the All-Star Game, and started with an impressive combination that ended in a left-handed slam.  It was only good for 44 points from the judges, though, and Knicks forward Obi Toppin next earned 48 and Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons picked up 46 to raise the bar.  Subsequent attempts by Stanley didn’t give him any help, and Simons was ultimately picked the winner by the judges panel in a split, 3-2 decision.  Toppin took second-place.

In the 3-Point Contest, when only two remained standing, it all came down to one shot.  Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley were battled it out, with Curry showing why he was the defending 3-Point Champ.  However, as Conley took his turn with the money-ball rack, he wasn’t going to be deterred.  He hit four of five before nailing one of his two long-range shots, following it up by making all five shots in the last rack.  Curry answered as anyone would have expected the master shooter to do, but still only managed to squeak by with his second consecutive title after winning 28-27, thanks to his last shot.