Team Giannis got off to a ridiculous start, but Team LeBron dropped 96 second-half points to claim a 178-164 victory. Here are the winners and losers of the 2019 All-Star Game.
Winner: Lillard Time
Kevin Durant may have won the MVP honors on the back of his methodical 31 points, but it was Damian Lillard’s second-half spark that provided the most exciting stretch of the game. Team LeBron was down by 17 when Lillard checked into the game with less than seven minutes remaining in the third quarter. Over the next five minutes, Team LeBron poured in 26 points, and Lillard either scored or assisted on 18 of them—including three 30-plus-foot 3s. By the 2:33 mark in the third, the game was tied and half of Team LeBron was on the court celebrating Lillard Time:
Heck, Lillard’s scorching run even got Kawhi to smile:
Team LeBron took over soon after, going on a hot shooting run to seal the final 178-164 result. Team Giannis may have tried hard from the start, but these teams take after their captains, and it was the LeBron-led team that paced and saved themselves for the end that won.
Loser: Defense (Until the Final Five Minutes)
The biggest loser of the night, for 68 years running.
Winner: Giannis to Golden State Truthers
The story line coming out of the All-Star draft between LeBron and Giannis was how much the former had done his best Nick Saban impression and turned the selection show into a nationally televised recruiting pitch. But the recruiting doesn’t stop once the teams are picked. Recruiting doesn’t stop, period. The most convincing Saban figure might have actually been Steph Curry, who went #lightyears on Team LeBron. Curry fed Giannis the ball early and often and made his captain look unstoppable. Then, as a glimpse of just how good the two could be together, he manufactured the play of the game with baffling precision: On a fast break, Curry hit a bounce pass that went higher than the shot clock and watched as a leaping Giannis caught the ball mid-parabola and dunked it home. It was mesmerizing.
The ball was nearly above the backboard when Giannis made contact. It’s a play for the ages, and one that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Giannis do in a regular game. In fact, most of his Sunday night performance felt very much like how he plays in a regular game. This was just an elevation of his freakishness. Milwaukee’s two All-Stars both had impressive performances. Giannis finished with 38 points and Khris Middleton knocked down six 3s. They represented the Bucks well, but—conspiracy alert!—Curry, who had 17 points and had a much more memorable game than Durant’s MVP-winning performance, may have been playing the long game for Golden State.
Curry shows off the handles and banks in the insane hook pic.twitter.com/czzNsHZCw9— The Render (@TheRenderNBA) February 18, 2019
Loser: The NBA
To all my fans thank you guys for all the love and support. You will have to ask @NBA @NBAonTNT @hornets @NBAAllStar why I wasn’t added as a performer this year for all star ⭐️ I guess they just wanted to rock the building and not tear the whole roof off ♂️ #RaiseUp #peteypablo— Petey Pablo (@DaRealPetey) February 18, 2019
Winner: Paul George, the Perfect Troll
Paul George did the James Harden stepback on James Harden pic.twitter.com/RE7buBhcSb— gifdsports (@gifdsports) February 18, 2019
George had not one, but two Harden stepback jumpers on Harden himself. Imitation is the highest form of flattery. May we all live long enough to see ourselves get disrespected by those imitating our greatest achievements.
Winner: Dirk’s and Wade’s Old Legs
Adam Silver did the right thing by opening up two extra spots for Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. I can’t imagine he, or any of us for that matter, ever thought it would be more than a courtesy inclusion. Then, Dirk and Wade entered the game at the same time and it was like someone gave them brand-new legs. Dirk got room to shoot and pulled up from deep three times. All of them, nothing but net:
BACK TO BACK 3s FOR DIRK pic.twitter.com/yauo1cu4L0— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 18, 2019
These shots weren’t right on the arc—they were from Curry range, with all of them coming from 29 to 33 feet out. Wade hit a 3 of his own in the first half and then opened up the second by finding some hops still left in the tank, plucking an alley-oop pass from LeBron—who else?—out of the air before finishing it. A few plays later, Wade bounced it off the backboard for LeBron to finish with a dunk of his own, just like old times.
Long live the olds. Long live nostalgia.
Loser: Marv Albert
Pour one out for Marv, who in the span of a few possessions confused Nikola Vucevic with Nikola Jokic (he also called Jokic “Juric”), and Karl-Anthony Towns with Anthony Davis. Albert called his first All-Star Game more than 50 years ago in 1968 at a brand-new Madison Square Garden. It might be time for him to hang up the mic.
Winner: Free-Agency Meme Fodder
Winner: Nikola Jokic’s High Jinks
Loser: The Anthony Davis Saga, All-Star Edition
Davis, of course, left a Pelicans game earlier this week to get an MRI on his left shoulder in what seemed like the last straw before Dell Demps was fired. It was unclear whether Davis would play in the All-Star Game, but reports indicated that, actually, the shoulder was fine and Davis would play. He saw the court for only five minutes and put up five points. Like the whole ordeal since Davis asked for a trade, this felt like much ado about nothing.
Winner: Kawhi Leonard Dancing
Here's a dancing Kawhi Leonard on your timeline. also me at any function pic.twitter.com/B2uTRsHLTn— The Man Who Sold The World (@LordBalvin) February 18, 2019
Until next year, All-Star, when all of these players will be on different teams or in the process of asking for a trade.