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America defeats World 161-144; OG almost lights the night on fire

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OG Anunoby stans rise up! Kawhi Leonard fans rise up! In the Green Room fans rise up! Raptors fans got a trifecta of interesting story lines during the Rising Skills Challenge, which was definitely not expected.

NBA: All Star-Rising Stars Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The overtones of “no defense” began back in the locker rooms for the players, and on the pre-game show for the fans (one that was surprisingly guest hosted by Danny Green, the oft-noted podcaster). By the time the first substitutions were made, the game already had a normal first quarter score. That’s the story of NBA All-Star Weekend, where things are for the fans — a phrase uttered by each and every player forced to make an on-screen appearance by their agent.

For the World Team, Canada’s own Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Raptors’ sophomore OG Anunoby were a part of those subs. Gilgeous-Alexander had taken the first shot of the two, but it was Anunoby who made the first basket — a dunk off an outlet pass following the defensive rebound. It wasn’t special except that he was wide open and already under the basket; reminiscent of rec-league cherry pickers.

OG spent the rest of the quarter picking off rebounds and unfortunately launching a corner three air-ball which had Danny Green — a contestant in tomorrow night’s three point contest — watching with bated breath and equally dead air. Not to be outdone, Ben Simmons dribbled the ball off of his foot early in the second quarter — of which were shortened to 10 minutes each for the exhibition — but the fun definitely outshone the few mistakes that were made throughout.

Things started to pick up as the World Team began to hit everything they shot, including two triples and a Simmons’ dunk in transition all in a matter of seconds, to get within two points before a timeout. Afterward, the two teams jockeyed back and forth before John Collins began testing out the dunks he’d probably need to save for tomorrow night’s dunk contest. Collins started the trend that soon took hold of everyone on the court.

Fortunately for those who’d decided to watch the Celebrity Game a few hours prior, the Rising Stars Challenge is decidedly a mash-up the two Saturday night contests — dunking and triples. With that in mind, OG Anunoby again showed off his signature cool, two-handed dunk that he breaks out when he doesn’t want to look too good on regular season fast-breaks.

Things only began there for Anunoby, as he followed that up with a botched alley-oop attempt turned layup, and then opted to pass up an open three to whiz a quick pass inside to DeAndre Ayton for a deuce. Most of the guys were walking around, so it didn’t take laser focus, but it was good to see the young man representing his game well to fans watching across the Earth.

Danny Green, for one, was taking full advantage of his position as broadcaster, using most of his on-air time to talk up the youngster — even going as far as to publicly hint at Kawhi Leonard’s free agency decision by inferring that Anunoby was going to “train” with Kawhi over the summer. I’d like to see Lawrence Frank pseudo-tamper with that.

Probably not-related, this tweet was dropped just after the comment, which is just too much coincidence for Raptors fans not to read into:

After halftime every other possession was a dunk or layup and we were finally entering prime All-Star Break action. OG reentered the game with World down eight points, and he actually looked like he was about to play defense before realizing where he was. “Young Kawhi” stayed engaged though and earned an actual slam-dunk, and then showed off his cutting chops for an alley-oop assisted by Ayton.

Finally, in the waning moments — in a move that would’ve gained him enough stardom to draw the attention of other NBA teams — OG attempted a 360, between the legs dunk that juuuust barely missed. It would’ve been worth the night to see though, that’s for damn sure.

Kyrie Irving briefly joined the show in the final frame and for a brief moment I hoped Green would ask him how badly he’d like to lose this spring — but we all know he’s too savvy for that, he’d only ask that face to face. All in all, the game was fun, the kids were laughing; it was a genuine good time — no harm in that.