NEW ORLEANS – (Special to Digital Spors Desk by the Sports Xchange) – In the full-court layup drill and 3-point contest otherwise known as the 66th NBA All-Star Game, New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis set an All-Star record with 52 points and Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook added 41 points to carry the Western Conference to a 192-182 victory over the Eastern Conference on Sunday night at the Smoothie King Center.
In a game in which defense was outlawed and feuding former teammates Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant played together for only 81 seconds, the West defeated the East for the sixth time in the last seven games.
The 374 combined points broke the record of 369 set during the West’s 196-173 win a year ago.
The East was led by Milwaukee Bucks center Giannis Antetokounmpo, who scored 28 points, and LeBron James, making his 13th All-Star start, with 23 points.
Davis, named the MVP, broke the All-Star Game scoring record of 42 points set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. He made 26 of 39 shots from the field, eclipsing Blake Griffin’s 2014 record of 19 made field goals in an All-Star Game.
One play in the second half summed up the general mindset of the players, who naturally placed self-preservation ahead of bravado.
Antetokounmpo stole the ball near midcourt and had a four-on-one against Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry. Curry found a spot in the middle of the lane — 10 feet in front of the basket — and laid stomach-first on the floor while Antetokounmpo hit an uncontested layup.
The world did not stop spinning on its axis, but it did skip a beat midway through the first quarter when the West embarked on an otherwise mundane offensive possession.
Westbrook and Durant ran across midcourt on either side of the key. Westbrook flicked a pass to Durant on the left side, and Durant threw it right back to Westbrook on a give-and-go that resulted in an easy layup and a 31-28 West lead.
At the next timeout, the West bench greeted Durant and Westbrook with high-fives, and someone poured a bottle of water on Durant’s head. Clippers center DeAndre Jordan came over and bear-hugged Westbrook as team managers got on the floor and wiped up the water.
The East led 53-48 after 12 minutes — the 101 combined points was an All-Star Game record for a quarter — and the West took a 97-92 halftime lead.
The 189 first-half points broke the All-Star record of 187 points set in the first half last year (West 104, East 83).
There was no defense allowed, so 58.1 percent shooting by the West and 58.0 percent by the East in the first half actually was a shade disappointing.
Davis led the West with 22 points, hitting an opening 3-pointer from the top of the key and then making 10 shots at the rim. Westbrook, who had a couple of fun exchanges going one-on-one against Boston Celtics 5-9 point guard Isaiah Thomas, added 19 points, five rebounds and four assists.
James paced the East with 20 points in the first half.
NOTES: The over-under for the game was 348.5 points. Last year’s 196-173 West victory (369 total points) obliterated the previous highest total of 321. … For the first time in All-Star history, five players drafted in the second round were named 2017 All-Stars — Atlanta’s Paul Millsap and Boston’s Isaiah Thomas for the East, and Golden State’s Draymond Green, the Los Angeles Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and Memphis’ Marc Gasol for the West. … LeBron James was the fifth player in NBA history to start in at least 13 All-Star games. He joined Kobe Bryant (15 starts) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bob Cousy and Michael Jordan with 13 each. … Giannis Antetokounmpo was the first Milwaukee Buck to start an All-Star Game since Sidney Moncrief in 1986. … Oklahoma City Thunder G Russell Westbrook won back-to-back All-Star MVPs in 2015 and 2016 — the only player in NBA history to accomplish that feat
NEW ORLEANS – (Wire Service Report) – The NBA continued honoring the memory of late TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager by donating $500,000 to the SagerStrong Foundation on Saturday night. The league gave Sager a tribute following Houston Rockets’ guard Eric Gordon’s victory over Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving in the 3-point contest.
TNT’s Ernie Johnson came onto the court with Gordon, Irving and Kemba Walker. He said $10,000 would be donated to the cause for each shot they made in a minute.
TNT analyst Reggie Miller got involved by being accompanied to the court by All-Stars James Harden and DeMar DeRozan along with WNBA champion Candace Parker and actors, including Anthony Anderson and Michael B. Jordan.
Harden and DeRozan combined to make 13 3-pointers for $130,000. Johnson then offered to raise it to $500,000 if Stephen Curry made a halfcourt shot.
Curry missed but Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal lifted Sager’s youngest son Ryan, in the air for a dunk to reach $500,000.
Sager died Dec. 15 at 65 following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Sager was annonced earlier Saturday as the Curt Gowdy Media Award winner by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
NEW ORLEANS (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Credit the assist to Paul George. Indiana Pacers guard Glenn Robinson III won the Verizon Slam Dunk title over Suns rookie forward Derrick Jones Jr. on Saturday night by leaping over his 3-inches-taller teammate, the Pacers mascot and a Pacers dance team member for a reverse slam that merited a perfect 50 in the final round of the All-Star Weekend premier skills event.
In the final round, consisting of two dunks, Robinson faced off against the Phoenix rookie, who also advanced from the original four-man competition. The Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan and the Magic’s Aaron Gordon were eliminated in the earlier rounds.
Jones essentially lost the final round with a poor first dunk attempt, which merited him only 37 points. Even though Jones scored a 50 on his second dunk for a two-dunk total of 87, Robinson needed only 44 points on his second dunk of the finals to win the title.
He did it with flair. George set up near the basket, placing the ball behind his head. In front of George were the Pacers mascot — Boomer the Panther — and a member of the Pacers dance squad named Kayla.
Robinson came in from the right wing, grabbed the ball, leaped over the three people, ducked his head so that it wouldn’t hit the rim and completed a spectacular reverse slam.
The perfect 50 gave him a two-dunk total of 94, easily eclipsing Jones.
“I originally planned for it just to be PG (Paul George),” Robinson said. “I knew I had to bring out something special. We added the mascot and the cheerleader. I really just wanted to get up high and dunk that thing hard, man. My adrenaline was going. It felt like I was looking at the rim. All I knew was the crowd went crazy.”
Robinson said he first dunked the ball when he was a high school sophomore seven years ago, and he said it was hard to imagine that he was now holding the trophy once made famous by Michael Jordan and Dwight Howard.
“My head was at the rim,” Robinson said. “I’m an explosive player.”
Robinson took the first-round lead with a perfect score of 50 from the five judges — Gary Payton, Alonzo Mourning, David Robinson, Dominique Wilkins and Chris Webber.
He came in from the right wing and leaped over two persons — a man with a boy on his shoulders — grabbed the ball in mid-air and slammed home a left-handed dunk.
Robinson’s perfect score put him ahead of Jones (45), Jordan (41) and Gordon (38).
Jones probably had room for argument for his 45, because he actually leaped over four teammates to slam home a left-handed dunk, but he got only 9s from all five judges.
Jones got a perfect 50 in the second round with an assist from teammate Devin Booker, who bounced the ball off the side of the backboard. Jones caught the ball
in mid-air, wrapped it between his legs and finished with a left-handed slam.
— Houston Rockets guard Eric Gordon, the NBA’s leading 3-point shooter this season, defeated Cleveland Cavaliers guard Kyrie Irving in the overtime round of the JBL 3-Point Contest, scoring 21 points to Irving’s 18 in the extra period.
Although Gordon heard scattered boos from the Smoothie King Center crowd — he played four seasons for the New Orleans Pelicans before signing as a free agent with the Rockets in the offseason — he nailed several important jumpers, including a final shot in the second round to send the game into overtime.
“It’s all about getting hot,” Gordon said. “All of us know, as shooters, anybody can get hot on any given night. Tonight was my night. As shooters, it’s all about being consistent.”
The 3-Point Contest went to overtime after Gordon and Irving scored 20 points each in the second round, eliminating the Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker, who had 17.
The shocker in the first round of the 3-Point Contest was that Golden State guard Klay Thompson, the reigning champion, was knocked out after scoring just 18 points.
The top three of the eight contenders advanced to the final. Despite the scattered boos, Gordon led all performers with 24 points in the first round, followed by Irving (20) and Walker (19).
The Los Angeles Lakers’ Nick Young (18), Thompson (18), the Dallas Mavericks’ Wesley Matthews (11), the Toronto Raptors’ Kyle Lowry (11) and the Portland Trail Blazers’ C.J. McCollum (10) were knocked out.
— New York Knicks 7-foot-3 center Kristaps Porzingis won the Taco Bell Skills Challenge by defeating Utah Jazz 6-foot-8 forward Gordon Hayward in the final. Porzingis won by nailing a 3-pointer from the left side of the key on his first attempt.
“Before we started doing it, while I was doing the walk through, I knew that the pass and the shot on the 3-pointer was the most important parts of that,” Porzingis said. “And I was able to make the pass on the first try all three times. And then in the final, that last shot just went in. So just a little bit of luck.”
NOTES: In his annual “State of the NBA” press conference, commissioner Adam Silver said he hopes the U.S. will not impose a broad ban on global travel because any restrictions could affect the international scope of the league. While Silver said he does not have access to security briefings that would justify a travel ban, he said, “We are a business based on global mobility. Twenty-five percent of our players were born outside the United States. We do a tremendous amount of business outside the United States. The NBA stands for the very best coming together to perform at the highest level.” … Silver said two NBA players were born in the Sudan, one of the countries on the restricted travel list. (The travel ban was struck down by a federal appeals court and currently is on hold.) … The number of NBA players born outside the U.S. grew from 20 percent last year to nearly 25 percent this year, Silver said, adding that nearly half the players selected in the two rounds of the 2016 draft were born outside of the country. … Silver said in the newly named Gatorade League (G League), which will replace the D League, each team will have two positions for players with no current NBA affiliation. Those players can be paid more money than other developmental players, which means more international players may want to hone their games in the U.S. … Silver said reducing the preseason and increasing the regular season by one week beginning with the 2017-18 season will cut down on the number of back-to-back games and the necessity of teams playing four games in five nights. … The NBA still is in favor of moving the minimum player age from 19 to 20, but the Players Association favors lowering the age minimum from 19 to 18. Silver said that issue would continue to be studied “outside the bright lights of collective bargaining.” … Asked if he, like Cleveland G Kyrie Irving, thinks the earth is flat, Silver said, smiling: “Kyrie and I went to the same college (Duke). He may have taken some different courses than I did. In all seriousness, as he made clear today, he was trying to be provocative, and I think he was effective. Personally, I think the world is round.” … The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame named 14 finalists Saturday to be considered for election in 2017: referee Hugh Evans, Rebecca Lobo, Kim Mulkey, former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino, Tracy McGrady, Sidney Moncrief, Rudy Tomjanovich, Chris Webber, Tim Hardaway, coach Bill Self, high school coach Robert Hughes, coach Muffet McGraw, coach Bo Ryan and AAU champions Wayland Baptist University. The class will be announced April 3. Candidates need 18 of 24 votes from the Hall of Fame selection committee to gain induction
NEW ORLEANS – (Staff report from Official News Release ) – The National Basketball Association and the National Basketball Players Association announced that NBA Africa Game 2017, the NBA’s second game in Africa, will take place Saturday, Aug. 5 at the Ticketpro Dome in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The announcement was made at the annual NBA Africa All-Star Luncheon in New Orleans by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, NBPA Executive Director Michele Roberts and NBA Vice President and Managing Director for Africa, Amadou Gallo Fall, who were joined by NBA Africa Game 2017 players Bismack Biyombo (Orlando Magic; Democratic Republic of the Congo), CJ McCollum (Portland Trail Blazers; U.S.) and Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets; Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The game, which will take place following the 15th edition of Basketball without Borders Africa, will once again feature a Team Africa vs. Team World format and will be played in support of UNICEF, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOS Children’s Villages South Africa (SOSCVSA). Team Africa will be comprised of players from Africa and second generation African players, and Team World will be comprised of players from the rest of the world. The game will air live in sub-Saharan Africa on Kwesé’s TV, Internet and mobile platforms, including Kwesé Free Sports, Kwesé Sports, select free-to-air channels, www.KweseSports.com, and the Kwesé app.
“Basketball is witnessing explosive growth in Africa,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “Our return to Johannesburg this summer is part of the league’s continued commitment to bring the authentic NBA experience to fans around the world. I would like to thank the NBA Players for their participation and for being terrific partners on this game and surrounding events.”
Biyombo, the seventh overall pick in the 2011 NBA Draft and a member of Team Africa in NBA Africa Game 2015, will join 2015-16 NBA All-Rookie Second Team member Mudiay on Team Africa. McCollum, the 2015-16 Kia NBA Most Improved Player, will play for Team World.
Full rosters of players, coaches and legends, along with ticket information will be announced at a later date.
The first official NBA game on the continent took place Aug. 1, 2015 at Ellis Park Arena in Johannesburg and was played in support of Boys & Girls Clubs of South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Foundation and SOSCVSA.
NEW ORLEANS – (Special to Digital Sports Desk by The Sports Xchange) – Orlando Magic forward Aaron Gordon, who finished second to Minnesota’s Zach LaVine in the 2016 Slam Dunk Contest, has his sights set on winning the dunk title this year when the competition heats up on Saturday night.
“It’s going to be innovative,” Gordon said. “It’s going to be technologically oriented. It’s going to be original and creative. I’m not looking to play it safe.”
Last year Gordon leap-frogged the Magic’s 6-foot mascot, Stuff the Magic Dragon, grabbed the ball and passed it under both legs before dunking it home.
–Pelicans power forward Anthony Davis said despite New Orleans’ struggling records in his five seasons with the team he wants to remain there and build a contender.
“I want to be here,” Davis said. “I love playing here. I plan on staying here. I want to do great things with this franchise. You can’t do that if you leave.”
–Former New Orleans guard Eric Gordon, who has rebuilt his career as a dead-eye perimeter shooter with the Rockets, called his former team “dysfunctional” and said he had “a lot of ups and downs” in New Orleans.
Gordon will compete in his first 3-point shootout.
“It’s different picking the ball off the rack,” Gordon said. “I really want to win it.”
–Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol passed up a charter flight to New Orleans for the All-Star Game by driving the 395 miles in an electric Tesla automobile.
It took Gasol nine hours instead of the usual six because he had to make two stops to recharge the Tesla’s batteries.
NOTES: The NBA excused Cavaliers F LeBron James and Knicks F Carmelo Anthony from the scheduled media session Friday. … When West All-Star coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors was informed that Friday was former teammate Michael Jordan’s 54th birthday, he said, “Wow, that’s sad.” … Trail Blazers G CJ McCollum, who last October criticized Donald Trump for characterizing Trump’s sexually explicit language in a 2005 video as “locker room talk,” said he has little regard for the president. Asked what he would say if he had “10 minutes with Donald Trump,” McCollum replied: “I doubt I would ever speak to him.” … Cleveland G Kyrie Irving, who won the 3-Point Contest in 2013, said his strategy is not to practice. “I’m trying to go into the 3-point competition with a clear conscience,” he said. … Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who is coaching the East team, said the key to Boston’s success this season has been unselfish players. “I don’t put a ceiling on us,” Stevens said. “We’ve got a lot of guys with chips on their shoulder.”