The NBA All-Star Game came to a thrilling conclusion on Sunday night as LeBron James hit a fall-away jumper off one leg to give Team LeBron a 163-160 win over a Kevin Durant-less Team Durant. Here are five things we learned during the game (and the weekend) that are worth noting.
Stephen Curry Can Shoot
Is there anything in sports quite like Chef Curry when he is really cooking? When he's really on, the only person who can take their eyes off what's happening on the court is Curry himself as he repeatedly turns and heads back up the court while the ball takes the perfect flight to the basket.
At one point in the third quarter Curry made five three-pointers in less than two minutes. Guys had no choice but to consider playing defense during the exhibition part of the All-Star game. Curry's shot chart from the game is hilarious. The one two-pointer he made might still be in the air.
He was so hot that when he went cold it looked like he'd never make another shot and yet it still felt like every one was going in. It was actually kind of disappointing that he only made 16 of 27 three-pointers (59 percent) and only scored 50 points.
Giannis vs. Embiid
I don't care what James Harden means for the Sixers' title hopes. I don't care if the Bucks repeat. We NEED a full playoff series of Giannis Antetokounmpo versus Joel Embiid. Two big men who are so good that they can dominate a perpetually guard-dominated All-Star Game through sheer force of will.
They were the top two non-Stephen Curry scorers in the game. They were the top rebounders. Embiid led his team with five threes. Giannis played 189 percent more defense than anyone had previously played defense in an All-Star Game.
They are both in their primes and have never met in the playoffs. That needs to change this year. It doesn't matter what round. We just need seven games of these seven-footers going back and forth and putting up absurd numbers.
Young Stars Are Good
There are so many good young guards which is imperative to keeping the All-Star Game entertaining. Guys like Luka and Trae Young are obviously going to have their opportunities to really shine in the All-Star game when LeBron and Steph eventually slow down (at some point in a decade or so), but the two guys most likely to make the All-Star Game feel like the All-Star Game are Ja Morant and LaMelo Ball. Ja as the most impressive in-game dunker.
And LaMelo as one of the flashiest passers alive, but so much more. Ball had 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, three rebounds, three assists, three steals and closed the game. That might have been a combination of Chris Paul being injured and other guys not wanting to force things after a four-hour halftime, but what an experience for the 20-year-old.
And a special shout out to Jarrett Allen who had four rebounds, two blocks and a basket in the fourth quarter while trying to guard an aggressive Joel Embiid. Allen may not have been very flashy this weekend, but he proved he belongs in the league's most important group.
The Elam Ending Could Save the NBA
The NBA is as loaded with talent and star power as it has ever been. Interest in off-the-court storylines is a 365-day-a-year industry. The regular season is too long, but what are you going to do? One of the most glaring issues in the league right now is the end-of-game situation. It can take forever to finish a close game. The Elam Ending just seems like it would nuke that problem.
The moment when the All-Star Game switches from an exhibition to a group of highly skilled and competitive players actually trying to win is one of the best things in basketball. Just ten of the best guys in the world competing and the Elam Ending removes all of the clock games and intentional fouls that makes a game drag. No team is ever really out until that target score is reached.
I understand the hesitancy of the NBA to go with this and kind of alter the way their postseason has been for 75 years. So maybe they should give that midseason tournament a try and do it all with the Elam Ending just to see how it looks on multiple games.
The Dunk Contest is Not Worth Saving
Ja Morant pulled off the best dunk of the weekend during the actual All-Star Game. The actual dunk contest only exists to remind us of how cool we thought the dunk contest was when we were kids. Have there been three good dunk contests in the 21st Century? Only a handful of actual All-Stars have actually competed over the last decade. Who is the last dunk contest winner you can recall?
The dunk contest should become part of the Rising Stars event where all the players are invited to dunk in between games. The players and fans can determine who gets the trophy. Stop inviting guys who are nowhere near All-Stars to All-Star Weekend and expand the Three Point Contest. It's the most important part of modern basketball so treat it like it is.