Kuzma earns MVP, leads USA to Ris­ing Stars win

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Nba All-Star Game - BY BREN­DAN MARKS [email protected]­lot­teob­server.com real cir­cus Bren­dan Marks: 704-358-5889, @Bren­danRMarks

A glo­ri­fied scrim­mage, a node­fense cha­rade — call it the NBA Ris­ing Stars Game, what­ever you want, but it cer­tainly was one thing:

Ex­cit­ing as all heck. Be­hind 35 points from Los An­ge­les Lak­ers for­ward and game MVP Kyle Kuzma and an­other 30 from Bos­ton Celtics wing Jayson Ta­tum, Team USA de­feated Team World 161-144 on Fri­day night in the first NBA All-Star Week­end event with cur­rent play­ers.

But re­ally, the score mat­tered less Fri­day night than all the sen­sa­tional plays and dis­plays of ath­leti­cism on the court at Spec­trum Cen­ter. With the first five picks in the 2018 NBA draft all par­tic­i­pat­ing in the same game, it was a night to cel­e­brate the best and bright­est young stars in the en­tire league.

The game, not known for de­fen­sive ef­fort, at least re­mained close through the first three quar­ters. But by the mid­dle of the fourth quar­ter, Team USA had pulled away for good... and then the shots started com­ing out.

And by cir­cus, we’re talk­ing com­pletely un­con­tested dunks, cross-court heaves, and step­back 3-point­ers. Hey, it’s sup- posed to be for fun, right?

THREE WHO MAT­TERED

Ben Sim­mons: He made 10 of his first 11 shots, did prac­ti­cally any­thing he wanted of­fen­sively — both in terms of scor­ing and pass­ing — and led the World in scor­ing with 28 points.

Kuzma: The Lak­ers’ only rep­re­sen­ta­tive, he cer­tainly earned all the fans’ cheers he had com­ing by the end of the game.

John Collins: For­mer Wake For­est star may not have made the big­gest im­pact on the stat sheet, but his jaw-drop­ping dunks were eas­ily the most en­ter­tain­ing plays of the game.

OB­SER­VA­TIONS

The Sacra­mento Kings had

the most play­ers par­tic­i­pat­ing in Fri­day’s game with for­mer Duke star Marvin Ba­gley III and guard De’Aaron Fox for Team USA, and guard Bog­dan Bog­danovic for Team World.

Brook­lyn Nets cen­ter Jar­rett

Allen was the last player to score... with a free throw in the fourth quar­ter.

The long­est 3-pointer made

of the night? Not At­lanta Hawks rookie Trae Young, or sharp­shoot­ing Chicago Bulls for­ward Lauri Markka­nen, but... Mem­phis Griz­zlies rookie for­ward Jaren Jack­son Jr. Jack­son was team­mates with Char­lotte Hor­nets rookie Miles Bridges last sea­son at Michi­gan State.

Last sea­son’s Ris­ing Stars

MVP, Bog­danovic, fin­ished the night with a more pedes­trian 15 points and six as­sists com­pared to his 2018 num­bers of 26 points and six as­sists.

Over­all high­light of the

night? That un­of­fi­cial award goes to Young, who crossed over Min­nesota Tim­ber­wolves guard Josh Oko­gie be­fore then drib­bling be­tween Oko­gie’s legs and win­ning a foul call.

WORTH MEN­TION­ING

Two of the loud­est cheers

of the night ac­tu­ally were for coaches, not play­ers. Dal­las Mav­er­icks for­ward Dirk Now­itzki (World) and Celtics guard Kyrie Irv­ing (USA) were two of the spe­cial as­sis­tant coaches Fri­day night, and both will par­tic­i­pate in Sun­day’s All-Star Game.

Collins, who will com­pete

against Bridges in Satur­day’s dunk con­test, gave fans a lit­tle pre­view Fri­day night with a hand­ful of sen­sa­tional dunks. The best of the bunch? An un­der­handed al­ley-oop — that he threw to him­self off the back­board — about a minute be­fore half­time.

With the Celebrity Game

end­ing across town at al­most the ex­act same time as the Ris­ing Stars game be­gan, there weren’t a ton of celebri­ties in at­ten­dance Fri­day night, but there were quite a few NBA All-Stars, in­clud­ing Tim­ber­wolves for­ward Karl-An­thony Towns and Nets guard D’An­gelo Rus­sell.

RE­PORT CARD

A+ OF­FENSE: If you en­joy dunks, al­ley-oop dunks, 3-point shots, be­hind-the-back passes, and ev­ery­thing fun about of­fen­sive bas­ket­ball, then Fri­day night was a good time.

F DE­FENSE: What’s that?

DAVID T. FOS­TER III dt­fos­[email protected]­lot­teob­server.com

Kyle Kuzma, of the Los An­ge­les Lak­ers, scored 35 points to earn MVP hon­ors in the Ris­ing Stars game at Spec­trum Cen­ter on Fri­day.

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