Friday night marked the beginning of the NBA All-Star weekend in New Orleans, with the Rising Stars Challenge highlighting the evening.
The two opposing teams were selected by former NBA greats Grant Hill and Chris Webber, with the Boston Celtics’ Kelly Olynyk and Jared Sullinger each starting for Team Webber.
Team Hill ended up the victor, with the final score favoring them 142-136. While both Sullinger and Olynyk finished with respectable numbers, (13 points, four assists — nine points and three steals, respectively) the game was taken over in the second half by a trio of talented standouts: Tim Hardaway Jr. of Team Webber, and Andre Drummond and Dion Waiters of Team Hill.
Hardaway Jr. and Waiters went shot for shot on multiple trips up and down the court in the second half, much to the delight of a crowd that included former teammates James Harden and Kevin Durant.
In fact, over the span of just four minutes in the second stanza, (the game was divided into two 20-minute halves) Waiters scored 15 points and Hardaway Jr. tallied 16.
By the final whistle, Hardaway Jr. had 36 points and Waiters scored 31 to go along with seven assists. But it was Drummond who received the MVP honors after tallying a Rising Stars Challenge record 25 rebounds to go along with 30 points.
The game featured defense that was lackadaisical at best, but the NBA’s young talent provided an entertaining spectacle for fans, with a plethora of impressive dunks, blocks and deep, deep threes.
Sullinger started the scoring for his team by drilling back to back three-pointers, and Olynyk did his best Rajon Rondo impression when he intercepted a pass at the top of the key and took it in for a breakaway dunk in the first 10 minutes of the game.
Both Sullinger and Olynyk seemed to have trouble defending Drummond, but not too much should be read into anyone’s defensive performance in what is almost always a high-octane offensive battle.
New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis enjoyed playing on his home court, finishing with a balanced stat line of 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists.