In what turned out to be a game to remember, the 2020 NBA All-Star game left us all excited and wanting more. Though there was a lot to grab from the game itself, here are just “8” takeaways from the game – including both on and off the court moments:
- The new format works
I’ll start with the obvious here: the new format works. A lot of it has to do with how we see it in hindsight, and at the end of it all, most of us owe Adam Silver an apology for how much we bashed the idea (though he wasn’t the only one who came up with it). Players were already starting to play defense midway through the third quarter; by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, we were seeing everything – tight defense, charges drawn, and even complaints against the referees.
Just to compare a few numbers from this year’s classic to last year’s: both teams combined for 39 attempts at the free throw line, while the total was only 15 combined attempts in last year’s game. Both teams also combined for only 110 total attempts from behind the arc this year, and last year that total was 167. Defense was everywhere and the pressure skyrocketed in a game most players seemingly are lax in.
What has recently been a laughingstock of a game turned into one of the most legendary pickup games featuring the best players on the planet, and every single person watching undoubtedly left wanting the same (or even more) in future All-Star games.
- Kobe Bryant’s impact is everywhere
From renaming the All-Star game MVP award to Jennifer Hudson’s tribute to changing the jersey numbers for both teams, everything surrounding the NBA All-Star game this year had some imprint of Kobe Bryant on it. Sure, the format helped, but you can’t say that Kobe’s famous “Mamba Mentality” had no influence on how hard the players played. Even postgame, a lot of those players spoke about how it was awesome to see one another channel their inner “Mamba Mentality” by playing hard and treating it like any other meaningful game – just like Kobe would’ve done and wanted. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like this ever again, but at least it’s nice to see the NBA continuing to create platforms and provide space for different people to recognize Kobe’s widespread impact.
- The fourth quarter was epic
If you could draw up the best fourth quarter in the NBA All-Star game, this is what it should look like. With Team Giannis heading into the final quarter up 133-124 and both teams just needing to reach the target score of 157, the final 12 minutes took on the feel of an NBA Finals game. The removal of the game clock proved to be super beneficial too, especially for the viewers, as it seemed to take away any notion that the game was restricted under a certain amount of time.
I don’t know how long that final quarter of the game took, but it was AWESOME.
- Less timeouts are always better
Part of what made the fourth quarter so intense was the lack of stoppage in play. It may not have been ideal for the players, but for myself as a fan, it made the quarter and game overall all the more epic because I was constantly hit with back-and-forth action by both teams. I couldn’t get up from my chair for fear that I’d miss something, and I think that’s exactly what the NBA wanted their fans to feel like watching this game.
- The game can’t end on a free throw
It just can’t. When Anthony Davis has to purposely miss the first free throw just to make it more exciting, you know there’s an issue that can be fixed. Whatever the new solution would look like, the game just can’t end on a made free throw. All of us were waiting to see who would take the game-winning shot, especially as it came down to the wire for Team LeBron. Would it be LeBron who demands the rock? Would Kawhi just grab the ball and tell LeBron to get the hell out of the way? Would AD try to finish off his homecoming?
It almost felt like the ending of the game was super anticlimactic, and if it wasn’t for how wild the rest of that fourth quarter was, there would definitely be more of us complaining about how a Kawhi-over-Embiid jumper to end the game would’ve been the textbook ending.
- Chris Paul can still hang with the best
The voting process is never perfect. Unsurprisingly, there were a whole host of people furious about Chris Paul’s inclusion onto the team while others didn’t make it (insert Devin Booker). But Paul showed once again why he belonged on the biggest stage, playing in the last few minutes of the game with the rest of Team LeBron’s starting lineup – minus Luka Doncic – as they staged a comeback.
Paul pulled out all the traditional moves, which continue to work no matter who he plays against. He had the highest plus/minus of anyone in the entire game, finishing +13 while dropping in 23 points (8/13 FG, 7/11 3PT), 6 assists, and even an alley-oop dunk for good measure. Though CP3 may not be as dominant of a force as he used to be, he showed that his overall basketball IQ and veteran savvy is still enough to keep him on the floor, and even beat, some of the best in the game.
- Kyle Lowry was a difference-maker
I mean, the guy was everywhere: hustling, running the floor, playing gritty and getting steals, and drawing charges. Wait, what? Drawing charges? Yes, drawing charges. When you’re willing to draw charges in an All-Star game and actually end up drawing multiple charges, you’re hard to replace. And Kyle Lowry was exactly that, as he was a key piece in Team Giannis’ play over the course of the game, especially late – though they didn’t end up winning.
- There are still those who don’t fit in
There are always players every year that seem like they just don’t fit in – almost as if we were to see a dinosaur in today’s world. By no means is this a reflection of their performance during the season leading up to the All-Star game, but it just feels awkward watching those players in these games. This year’s misfits: Domantas Sabonis, Bam Adebayo, and Khris Middleton.