Team Lebron ahead of Team Giannis in All-Star Game.
It was the perfect set-up for Chicago native Anthony Davis, an excellent free throw shooter, as he walked to the line to win Sunday’s All-Star Game at United Center. But his first attempt, he blew it.
Or did he?
“I told me team I was gonna miss it to put more pressure on myself,” Davis later joked.
The second time was the charm: The Lakers big man sunk his last free throw to give him his 20th point and give Team LeBron a 157-155 win in one of the most hotly contested All-Star Games in recent memory Sunday at United Center.
It’s admittedly a low bar. Annually, the exhibition of the league’s biggest stars is considered a snooze thanks to a gentlemen’s agreement of low defensive intensity that also has created low drama.
Kawhi Leonard earned the Kobe Bryant MVP Award after recording 30 points to lead Team LeBron, while Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) had 25 in a losing effort.
James was denied an earlier basket that would have made the score 156-153 after a review showed Antetokounmpo cleanly blocked James’ layup initially called goaltending.
Harden made a 3 to tie the game at 146 and Davis brought it back to all square after Team Giannis got two free throws from Embiid.
Team Giannis led 133-124 after three quarters, starting the unusual untimed final quarter.
The target final score of 157 was calculated using Team Giannis’ score total after three quarters and adding 24 points.
A tightly contested third quarter tilted to Team LeBron with a Nikola Jokic 3-pointer. The Nuggets’ 7-footer knocked down his shot with 22.2 seconds left and, after a turnover, applied a full-court press resulting in a foul and a pair of free throws for Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets). He made 1 of 2.
Team Giannis led 92-83 at halftime, with Young splashing a half-court shot at the buzzer.
Leonard had 12 points on 4-of-4 3-point shooting when the first subs were made 6 minutes, eight seconds into the game. He had 25 points in the first half — seven 3s — to lead all scorers. Team LeBron dominated the first quarter, 53-41, thanks to 9-of-18 shooting from 3-point range.
LeBron James, making his 16th All-Star Game appearance, and Team LeBron wore blue jerseys all with No. 2 on the back, and Team Giannis wore red No. 24 jerseys. The one-time gesture was a nod to Bryant, who wore No. 24, and his daughter Gianna, who preferred No. 2.
The untimed fourth quarter was a race to a target final score — determined by adding 24 points to the score of the team leading after three quarters — as part of a tribute to Bryant.
It was the first time since 2013 the All-Star Game was played without Warriors guard Stephen Curry, who is sidelined with a broken finger. Nets forward Kevin Durant, the 2019 All-Star Game MVP, was named an All-Star every year since 2010 before Sunday. He is sitting out the season recovering from a torn Achilles.
That led to a breakneck finish to the game with $300,000 on the line. And the All-Stars — as they never have before — played as the stakes mattered. At one point, Lowry parked in front of a driving Leonard, drawing a charge, a call rarely seen in the lackadaisical All-Star contests of the past.
LeBron James had 23 points and 6 assists, while Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team with 25 points. Chris Paul, who Team LeBron coach Frank Vogel said was essential to the win, had 23 points and 6 assists and chastised the younger All-Stars when he saw them lacking competitive spirit.
Even though the game was more physical than usual — a bit of a no-no as superstars try to avoid injuries — most felt the payoff was worth it.
“None of us knew what to expect,” James said. “But throughout the whole fourth quarter and at the end of the game, everybody was like, ‘That was pretty damn fun.’”
“It’s always fun just to get around guys that are very competitive, see what they do on an everyday basis, just talking, just being their teammate,” he said. “We go at each other all year round … it’s great to be able to pick their brains and just be around them and joke and laugh.”