The new All-Star Game format proved a rousing success, with playoff intensity in the fourth quarter leading to a thrilling conclusion as Team LeBron staged a comeback against Team Giannis in the final quarter, winning 157-155. Everything happened in that final quarter, from charges to challenges, to ramp up the excitement in the exhibition.
Team LeBron outscored Team Giannis 33-22 in the fourth, needing every point to overcome a nine-point deficit heading into the quarter. Every point necessary, Domantas Sabonis provided one himself in the final period, playing on the winning end in his All-Star debut. Sabonis started the fourth, playing a couple of non-logged minutes (given no clock) before the starting lineup (with Chris Paul) closed the game out for Team LeBron.
It was unlikely Sabonis was going to make a massive impact on the highlight reel, but he finished with two points and six rebounds, playing a bench mob role in the final quarter as Team LeBron staged their comeback. Five of those boards game in the first half, a team high at that point, leading Team LeBron with three offensive boards.
Both of Sabonis’s points came at the free throw line, where he went 2-4, taking just one shot in the game. He mostly deferred when he did have the ball and was challenged (surprisingly so) when he did take shots, leading to his four free throw attempts and one field goal miss.
Sabonis was noticeably short on effort plays in the first half, but read the room to start the fourth, coming up with a defensive stop early in the quarter with Ben Simmons against Joel Embiid.
Sabonis carried over his excitement from last night into the game tonight, fulfilling the promise to himself to “go out and have fun tonight.” Even in the first half, when Kemba Walker had him skating, Sabonis was all smiles.
The success of the All-Star Game in general sets up an exciting opportunity for Indianapolis as they prep to host the event next year. This level of play will no doubt be welcome, but the city and state have a lot to live up to after some excellent pre-game content, focusing on Chicago in a way that sets a unique bar, in addition to the excellent player introductions from Common.