If this year’s NBA All-Star Game looked unfamiliar, it wasn’t just the change in team formats; it featured some actual basketball. Down from last year’s unholy 374 combined points, tonight’s game resembled something closer to the one the Indiana Pacers and Brooklyn Nets partook in in the season opener.
There was defense, there were free throws, guys were angry at the officials. There were trips to the Replay Center and actual traveling violations. Sure there were still 123 three point attempts, but the overall play made it an exciting All-Star Game to watch, especially late as the game came down to the wire, Team LeBron edging Team Stephen 148-145.
Team LeBron won on the final possession, with their defense locking down Team Stephen. All-Star MVP LeBron James and Kevin Durant cornered Stephen Curry on the side on a double team and Durant remained focused after Curry got the ball to DeMar DeRozan. Durant’s defense kept DeRozan from even getting a shot off, securing an All-Star Game on a defensive stop.
Team LeBron won despite allowing 24 offensive rebounds and getting outscored 31-13 in second chance points (while getting outscored by 13 on the free throw line). Team LeBron’s advantage came in transition and turnovers, a fitting recipe for the team Victor Oladipo was a part of.
Oladipo contributed to four of those points in transition as part of a solid All-Star debut. Oladipo played 15 minutes, finishing with seven points and three assists, joining Kevin Durant and Kyle Lowry with a game high three steals.
Oladipo’s first steal came soon after he checked in, passing out for the hockey assist.
Vic's steal leads to the slam! pic.twitter.com/RikHFabj8A— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) February 19, 2018
His first bucket of the game came in a familiar sense, pulling up for a mid range jumper.
Oladipo was even able to get a do-over from his showing in the dunk contest, intercepting a pass and completing the breakaway dunk.
The opening festivities, from the pregame show to the national anthem were questionable at best, but the game itself lived up to the billing. It’s not often there’s a feeling of excitement to see more basketball at the end of an All-Star Game, but tonight showed the excitement of the league, and it will be a long wait until Thursday before the league picks back up again.
For the Pacers, it will be an extra day before they return, hosting the Atlanta Hawks on Friday. Hopefully Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis, and the Pacers can look back on this All-Star Weekend as a success and will use it to push them through the regular season’s final 24 games.