OKC Thunder sophomore Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and his World Team took an early lead but succumbed 151-131 to Team USA in the Rising Stars Game.
We hear about six degrees of separation all the time – but in this Rising Stars Game, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had several one-degree of separation contacts involved. First, the OKC Thunder sophomore was playing with his cousin Nickeil Alexander-Walker playing with him on the World Team.
Additionally, two fellow Canadians were on his squad including New York Knicks rookie RJ Barrett and Memphis Grizzlies rookie Brandon Clarke. That Canadian foursome shared the court at times with Luka Doncic and the quartet will all likely spend time together this summer as they attempt to win the FIBA Wild Card Tournament to earn a berth to the Tokyo Olympics.
The other key association was OKC Thunder veteran point guard Chris Paul who was on hand to cheer and jeer along SGA in the game. Yet, another sign of how close this team is the Thunder backcourt duo. Other vets may have been present but CP3 was the only one I saw in the crowd (Donovan Mitchell and Myles Turner were commentating).
As for the match although Shai hoisted some shots and delivered a few of his patented sneaky slips to the basket his goal seemed to be centered on getting others involved.
In all, he collected 16 points, dished 3 assists, grabbed 3 rebounds and blocked a shot. His world team got to witness Luka Doncic hit a half-court 3-point shot at the end of the first half drawing oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
Barrett led the world team with 27 points, six rebounds, five assists, and three steals. The interaction and fit of RJ and Shai no doubt will open the debate of how Barrett might look in OKC. The two Canadians have a natural chemistry between them– we’ll need to revisit this topic at a later date.
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As for Team USA – it seemed the crowd was most interested in witnessing Zion Williamson and his dunking prowess of which he provided ample examples. At one point he dunked and hung on the rim – bending and damaging the rim. Not since the days of Shaquille O’Neal have basketball rims been in such danger!
Trae Young looked like his intention early was to win MVP but he settled into the game and with the World Team leading by 10 points, it was the Charlotte Hornets group and Miles Bridges specifically who took over in the second half.
Bridges threw a pass to himself off the backboard for a dunk (and also swished a windmill effort) sending the crowd into a frenzy. With his 20 points, five assists, five rebounds and three steals Bridges locked down the Rising Stars MVP award.
Gilgeous-Alexander is back in action today as he’ll participate in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge the first event of the evening.
Also on tap today – interviews with the All-Stars, practices for Team LeBron (Chris Paul) and Team Giannis, Adam Silver’s annual All-Star address and the big event State Farm All-Star Saturday Night.