The Kickstart Rising Stars game proved a lopsided affair as the World Team topped USA 155-124. Unsurprisingly, the game featured a wealth of three point shooting, headed up by game MVP Bogdan Bogdanovic, hitting seven of World’s extra 12 makes as a team, making the deficit too much to overcome.
For the Indiana Pacers and their American fans, however, the rooting interest went against their home country as Domantas Sabonis represented the World Team.
Sabonis came off the bench for World as the team’s sixth man. The limited availability of Joel Embiid provided extra opportunities for Sabonis, who made the most of it, posting a 13 point, 11 rebound double double, the first player to reach double double status in the game.
These kinds of exhibitions are often difficult for big men to make an impact due to the show-off nature of the game. The passes that Sabonis would benefit from in a regular game weren’t there, but that didn’t keep Sabonis from getting himself involved. Sabonis not only attacked the glass, but proved a more than willing passer, showcasing his own passing skills to come up with three assists.
Not only did Sabonis perform well on the court, but he appeared to be basking in the moment at every given opportunity. When not in the game, Sabonis was a willing Bench Mob participant (though perhaps not the leader teammate Lauri Markkanen was) and was all smiles and laughs in the post-game.
Victor Oladipo even showed up in support of his regular season teammate, sporting his Rising Stars jersey (in the Buffalo Braves orange by the way).
The free-and-loose play of the game helped Sabonis to his third perfect shooting game of the year, finishing 6-6 with a three. Perhaps tonight’s fun can be channeled into the final 24 games of the year?
In the meantime, the Pacers will continue their All-Star representation tomorrow night when Oladipo takes center stage in the Verizon Dunk Contest. Oladipo got a first-hand look at what he will be up against with both Dennis Smith Jr. and Donovan Mitchell providing some exciting dunks on the night.
The All-Star exhibitions are mileage-may-vary showcases for fans, especially in the basketball purist sense. At the same time, however, there’s always something unique and special about seeing a familiar face represent his team (and in this case, Lithuania) and to see him do so in such a jovial manner as Sabonis did tonight.