“The bank, usually it’s closed on Sundays, but not for me. For me it was open with extended hours.”
If there is a time to shoot a perfect record, the NBA All-Star game is it – and Giannis Antetokounmpo did just that.
His 16-for-16, including a 3-for-3 on three-pointers saw him finish with a game-high 35 points – and the Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player (MVP) award – as Team LeBron defeated Team Durant 170-150 in the annual exhibition game.
But this was an All-Star game like no other. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, there was barely a crowd, no front-row celebrities, to witness the magic unfold in person at Atlanta’s State Farm Arena.
Yet in the end, it was the same. A LeBron James team won – extending his record to 4-0 as an All-Star captain.
“I always try to pick the right team, and I’ve been lucky enough for four years to pick the right team,” James said.
“Guys go out and compete and play to win. I’ve been on the winning side of all four.”
Curry and Lillard on fire as Antetokounmpo breaks record
Antetokounmpo’s 100% record saw him fly to the top of the record standings, achieving the best shooting performance in NBA All-Star history.
Two of the Milwaukee Bucks star’s three-pointers were banked in as he bettered Blake Griffin’s 2014 record of 82.6% shooting on at least 15 attempts.
“I’m just having fun,” Antetokounmpo said. “Sometimes when you’re having fun and not thinking about the outcome, you just let your instincts take over.”
“My team played great, and I was able to just win it and to have the trophy with the name of Kobe Bryant, it’s amazing, and I know he would be happy. Yeah, I know he’d be happy.”
All of his shots came in the first three quarters, after which he decided to no longer push it – particularly as a team-mate was taking over.
“I wasn’t scared to shoot more. I wanted to shoot more shots, but Dame [Damian Lillard] was on fire,” he said. “I told Dame we all got to get out of his way, and that’s what we did.”
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Lillard finished on 32 points with his and Stephen Curry’s long-distance shooting catching the eye.
The Team LeBron duo posted identical 8-for-16 shooting from behind the arc, combining for 16 three-pointers including back-to-back efforts from half-court.
“These two guys, the distance from which they can shoot the three, it’s unbelievable,” Antetokounmpo said.
“I told my son: I’m going to send him to [Lillard’s] summer camp so he can shoot like Dame. He’s going to have the skills; he’s going to be tall like me. I want him to shoot Dame way.”
Team LeBron dominates but James fails to shine
Team LeBron took command of the game in the second quarter with a 27-8 flurry inside the last four minutes, taking a 100-80 lead into half-time.
They extended that to 146-125 by the end of the third quarter, with Team Durant only coming within 15 points of their opponents in the final period.
Chris Paul posted a game-high of 16 assists, while Bradley Beal top-scored for Kevin Durant’s side with 26 points.
James – who led the Los Angeles Lakers to last season’s NBA title – only appeared in the first half, scoring just four points on 2-for-7 shooting, including missed dunks, before taking himself off.
Originally scheduled for Indianapolis before being moved to Atlanta, the All-Star game was, like everything, affected by the pandemic, with only a small number of fans allowed inside the arena and strict protocols in place.
The usual All-Star weekend was condensed into one night, with Team LeBron’s Domantas Sabonis winning the pre-game skills challenge and Curry winning the three-point contest. Anfernee Simons won the half-time dunk contest, becoming the first Blazers player to do so.
Earlier on Sunday, the Philadelphia 76ers duo Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons were ruled out of the All-Star game after being in contact with an individual who tested positive for Covid-19.
Both players had been in contact with the individual before they arrived in Atlanta and were kept away from the other players.
Forward Zion Williamson, of the New Orleans Pelicans, made his first All-Star appearance after replacing Embiid in the starting line-up for Team Durant, while Simmons was due to line up for Team LeBron.
In February, James had called plans to stage an All-Star Game amid the pandemic a “slap in the face” for players.
The 2022 All-Star game will take place in Cleveland.