The Three Point Shootout ended roughly a half-hour before the 2021 NBA All-Star Game began, but one half into the exhibition, it became clear that Team LeBron didn’t quite get that memo. Damian Lillard and Stephen Curry casually traded 43-footers at the end of the first half — which wouldn’t have been a problem if they weren’t on the same team — the highlight of a 27-8 run that gave Team LeBron a 20-point advantage at halftime. Despite the occasional scare, the star-studded group used that run to hang onto victory throughout the rest of the game, cruising to a 170-150 win.
That barrage from Curry and Lillard was the highlight of the game. In a span of 12 seconds, each of the two hit 3-pointers from just a step inside of halfcourt, effectively stretching the limits of what to expect from the NBA, even in an All-Star Game.
Outside of the guards, the highlight was the game’s Most Valuable Player, Giannis Antetokounmpo. The two-time regular season MVP finished with 35 points and 7 rebounds on an All-Star record 16-of-16 from the field, and three 3-pointers.
Because Team LeBron’s offensive attack was so versatile, the game never truly seemed to be in jeopardy after that aforementioned run in the first half. Lillard made his late push for the All-Star Game’s MVP by scoring the last 11 points for Team LeBron capping it off with a looooong (a simple “long” doesn’t do it justice) 3-pointer from 40-feet away that ended the competition for good.
Try not to look so surprised.
Lillard’s touch was contagious across the rotation; he finished with 32 points on 11-of-20 from the field, including eight 3-pointers. Alongside him, Jaylen Brown and Paul George of the Los Angeles Clippers warmed up in the final frame, on their way to 22 and 17-point performances respectively.
Rounding out the rest of the major contributors, Chris Paul played the role of floor general, doling out 16 assists to go with eight rebounds and six points, as well as an alley-oop dunk to turn the clock back to 2007.
Together, Team LeBron flicked their wrists collectively for an eye-opening 31 3-pointers on 61 attempts. Chalk it up as another victory for LeBron James the GM, who moved to 4-0 in the All-Star Draft era. And, because of his affinity for Lillard, the two have now teamed up in each of the last three seasons, going undefeated.
On the other side, Team Durant seemed to be missing just a bit of that scoring punch from their own GM. Durant didn’t play, and while they got balanced efforts from their stars — Brooklyn Nets stars James Harden and Kyrie Irving each scored 20+ efficiently, as did Jayson Tatum and leading-scorer Bradley Beal — it was clear that they needed extra punch to keep up with the long-range mastery of Team LeBron.
There wasn’t much to unpack in terms of X’s and O’s. Save for a few possessions, there wasn’t much defense. The lack of a close game meant there wasn’t the need for nail biting. Both sides left intensity in their respective cities, but, at the very least, they brought their offensive firepower to Atlanta for the weekend’s festivities.
Overall, Sunday night can be considered a win for the Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard was among the game’s absolute best. His teammate, Anfernee Simons, took center stage at halftime by winning the Slam Dunk Contest. Meanwhile Robert Covington made HBCUs proud, competing in the Skills Challenge.
And, perhaps most importantly at this moment, the Blazers await the return of multiple, soon-to-be-healthy contributors from their own roster. They may have brought the pain to Atlanta, but hopefully healthy will set them up for good fortune as the second half of the schedule kicks off on Mar. 11.
The Blazers have a chance to close the gap between themselves and a top-tier Western Conference power, as they battle the Phoenix Suns on Thursday, Mar. 11 at 5:30 PT.