The US team will be introduced on Friday, February 14, 2020, at the NBA Rising Stars basketball game in Chicago. (AP Photo / Nam Y. Huh)
CHICAGO – Miles Bridges rose like his boss in Chicago. Zion Williamson delivered his share of punishing dunks and even damaged the edge.
Everything added up to a high-flying start to the all-star weekend.
Bridges scored 20 points and received MVP awards, Eric Paschall added 23 more, and the United States defeated the world 151-131 at the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night.
Bridges was a bright spot for Charlotte in a difficult season. The hornets are 11th in the Eastern Conference at 18-36. But the second-year professional showed a show in Michael Jordan's old house and was awarded the MVP trophy by Hall of Famer and Chicago's Isiah Thomas.
"We wanted to get out and play hard at the Rising Stars and show what Charlotte was all about – me, Devonte (Graham) and P.J. (Washington)," said Bridges. "And that's exactly what we did. I really didn't have any additional motivation, I wouldn't say that. But MJ who puts Chicago on the map definitely plays a big role."
Cleveland's Collin Sexton had 21 points, Atlanta all-star Trae Young added 18, and Chicago's Kendrick Young product from Miami came in at 16. Williamson scored 14 and made the baskets tremble at the United Center whether he did or failed.
RJ Barrett of New York led the world with 27 points, and Washington's Brandon Clarke scored 22nd
The annual showcase of top rookies and second-year players helped kick off the first all-star weekend in Windy City since 1988, when Jordan thrilled the local crowd at the old Chicago Stadium. At that time, His Airness prevailed against Dominique Wilkins in a slam dunk competition that remains the standard, scoring 40 points to lead the East in the game over the West.
Williamson continued to dazzle after his highly anticipated debut for New Orleans was pushed back three months after a right knee operation. With an average of 22.1 points in 10 games for the pelicans, the number 1 did not know that he had bent the rim. It happened late in the first half, in an alley that was fed between the legs by Ja Morant.
"Halfway through and my teammates told me about it," he said. I don't know which dunk it was on, but I don't think it was me. "
Two mistakes towards the end of the game were equally impressive.
Williamson tried a 360 just to make it fly off the edge. When the players from both teams stood and watched, he went between his legs and off the glass to miss again.
Kobe Bryant's presence was high on Friday.
The players wore patches number 2 and 24, surrounded by nine stars in honor of the great Lakers and his daughter Gianna, who were killed in a helicopter crash on January 26 among nine people. Pau Gasol along with great WNBA Sue Bird addressed the crowd in midfield as part of a tribute to Gasol's former teammate and late NBA commissioner David Stern before the game.
Bryant, along with Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan, also led a class of eight Hall of Fame finalists announced on Friday.
As for the game itself? As expected, there were a lot of flashy dunks and not much in defense.
Dallas all-star Luka Doncic roared out of the crowd as he put a 3 off the half shortly before the halftime buzzer to send the world 81-71 into the locker room. Bridges cheered fans late in the third quarter as he flipped the ball off the glass and blocked it during the quarter when the US took control.
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