The NBA All-Star Weekend’s Friday night event, the Rising Stars challenge, is typically the worst one, as it often turns into a glorified AAU all-star game. There’s no defense played, and heck, there’s barely a semblance of offense, either. We get a bunch of youngsters trying to look cool and get their Top Shot moments. The league has experimented on the format several times, but none fixed this event.
Until, perhaps, this time.
I’m confident that we can say that the NBA has fixed the Rising Stars event, and Cade Cunningham led Team Barry to the first meaningful Friday night event of the All-Star Weekend. Cunningham controlled the game with his playmaking and shot-creation, as Team Barry was the only team that displayed a cohesive half-court offense. Team Barry survived a playoff atmosphere in their first game against Scottie Barnes and Team Payton, but Jae’Sean Tate’s nose for the ball got them the game-winning layup.
Team Barry moved on to face Team Isiah, and they had to lean on Mobley and Cunningham to survive the Precious Achiuwa experience. Team Isiah wouldn’t have been in this game if not for Achiuwa, as Desmond Bane, Troy Haliburton, and Saddiq Bey all went cold. It completely justified Achiuwa looking off a wide-open Bane late in the game /s. Team Isiah won it all, 75-70, and Cade Cunningham’s excellent playmaking earned him the Rising Stars MVP nod.
The Rising Stars event started with some turbulence for our participants. Scottie Barnes and Precious Achiuwa got held up in Toronto due to the snowstorm last night (AKA a regular winter day in Winnipeg).
As the fanbase held their breath to see whether our boys made it to Ohio, this delay sparked a flight search not seen since Kawhi’s free agency:
Found the private jet that is flying Scottie and precious to Cleveland pic.twitter.com/7nAsok2RhP— VINI-SCOTTIE (32-25) (@ViniangeloBall) February 18, 2022
But it’s a good thing that the boys made it there on time:
And here’s Scottie in Rising Stars threads:
Sadly, Precious Achiuwa and Scottie Barnes ended up on different teams, and the only way we’d see the two of them go head-to-head was if their respective teams won their elimination game.
Now, on to the games!
Game 1: Team Isiah (Achiuwa) vs Team Worth
The game started like two boxers using the first round to feel each other out, and while there was very little resistance on defense, no one was stepping on the gas. Even Anthony Edwards attempted one of the weakest layups he can do. It didn’t take long before the game turned into a dunk-a-thon on both ends of the court, and with both teams shooting bricks from behind the arc, the game was relatively close (21-19) until the first timeout. Jalen Green had ten, while Isaiah Stewart had eight unimpeded points at this point.
Precious Achiuwa made his appearance after the break, and Marjon Beauchamp failed to score against him. However, his teammate Desmond Bane made back-to-back threes to put their team up 27-19. Jalen Suggs stared down Precious Achiuwa for a corner three, and given the percentages, I was not surprised with Achiuwa ignoring him. Achiuwa grabbed Bane’s miss, and like he always does, he took the ball out to ISO and ignore his teammates in two consecutive possessions. The side-step three bricked, and his drive to the basket ended up with a trip to the line for 2 FTs.
Josh Giddey’s failed attempt for a backboard oop ended up on Achiuwa’s hands, and he went coast to coast for a dunk, drawing comparison to Giannis from the commentators. As Achiuwa got doubled in the corner, the defense started to pick up, but he found a cutting Beef Stew for a dunk. Achiuwa spotted up for a corner three but missed, and Jalen Green dunked on the other end, cutting the lead to 37-34. Achiuwa got another touch for a corner 3, which he missed, resulting in another Team Worthy dunk, this time cutting the lead to 39-38. Giddey found a slipping Cole Anthony for a dunk, giving Team Worthy their first lead at 40-39. Great game plan by Team Worthy by funnelling Team Isaiah’s touches to Achiuwa.
Achiuwa got the offensive putback to take the lead back after the break, but Green answered with his 20th point via step-back trifecta. Saddiq Bey countered with his own perimeter shot, and a Team Worthy turnover got Team Isaiah in transition. Unfortunately, Achiuwa failed to catch the outlet pass, turning the ball over. Giddey missed both free throws on the next possession, while Bane got an easy floater. Suggs tied the game at 46, and Bane’s miss resulted in a Suggs-Anthony off the backboard alley-oop, 48-46. Suggs was on a leak out again and was on his way to finish the game, but Tyrese Haliburton fouled him before he got a chance. Suggs missed his second free throw, and Bey drove for a layup, making it a one-possession game for both teams, with Team Worthy up 49-48. Team Isiah called for a timeout, and the play was for Bane to do something. Bane tried to get a shot over Suggs, but he was fouled and made a trip to the line. He barely made the first and ended the game with the second. Clutch. It didn’t even matter that Anthony “moon shined” his free throw attempt.
Wow, the Rising Stars event is back.
Game 2: Team Payton (Barnes) vs Team Barry
Scottie Barnes’ Team Payton looked like the visiting team here, with Cavs youngsters Isaac Okoro and Evan Mobley playing for Team Barry. Barnes got the starting gig, and his teammate Jaden McDaniels started the game with a corner three. Mobley tried to ISO Barnes at the three-point line, but it was a brick. Barnes got the ball cutting to the basket, but he was too deep and got his shot blocked. Team Payton got an early 10-7 lead, with Team Barry’s only field goals coming from Mobley’s dunks. Jonathan Kuminga came in to spell Barnes, and Isaac Okoro’s dunk tied it at 16, and we headed to a timeout. Barnes was back after the intermission, and he posted up Cade Cunningham for a lefty hook shot. Cunningham answered with a corner three, putting Team Barry up, 24-20.
Bones Hyland picked up the pace for Team Payton, and with his second trifecta tied the game at 31. He followed that up with a nice dime to a cutting Barnes for a short floater to give them a five-point lead. Okoro responded with a transition dunk, while Barnes got his middy game. But Team Barry’s 8-0 run wrestled the lead back, punctuated by Mobley’s putback dunk, forcing Team Payton to call a timeout.
Scottie Barnes gets his own rebound and gets it to go! The Raptors' rookie is up to 9 points in the game. pic.twitter.com/8cxn6M2mEb— TSN (@TSN_Sports) February 19, 2022
Barnes got his usual putback off his own miss, and on the next possession, Mobley ISO’d Barnes from the corner, but Barnes forced Mobley to a tough hook shot going away from the basket. Kuminga’s middy tied the game at 42, but Barnes’ corner 3 failed to give Team Payton the lead. Cunningham overpowered Ayo Dosunmu for a tough layup, while Dosunmu bricked his middy on the other end. He followed that with another brick, this time a wide-open corner three, and LaMelo Ball fouled Mobley on the boxout. Mobley split the free throws, giving Team Barry a 46-42 lead.
Barnes bricked his corner three but got the ball back to Lamelo, who found McDaniels for a corner 3, cutting Team Barry’s lead to 46-45. Barnes foiled an alley-oop attempt to Mobley, and Barnes and Tate ended up with a jump ball. Hyland got the loose ball, and LaMelo’s putback off McDaniels’ miss gave Team Payton a 47-46 lead. Cunningham airballed his three-pointer, but Tate got the ball under the basket for a putback, putting Team Barry up, 48-47. LaMelo airballed his three-pointer while Alperen Sengun fell out of bounds trying to catch an outlet pass. Team Payton tried to steal the game from the three-point line, but they missed consecutive three-pointers. LaMelo tied the game at 48 when he spit his free throws, but they failed to stop Tate, who drove to the lane against four defenders for a layup and called “game.”
Clorox Clutch Challenge
Before the final, the Clorox Clutch Challenge was played, and here’s the format:
Team Haliburton/Bane had a rocky start, as Bane came in cold and missed his shots through the first four spots. Haliburton carried their team through the first four spots, but Bane came up clutch and made the logo Lillard spot, winning the time attack challenge.
Team Giddy/Mobley came in second place, and it looked like they were going to win this early. The duo made their first four shots but struggled at the logo Lillard spot. After several attempts, Mobley banked the shot, but it cost them a few seconds too long.
Team Ignite Hardy/Foster Jr struggled on Ray Allen’s spot early, but they made a comeback only to fall short at the Logo Lillard spot.
Team Barnes/Maxey was a disaster, with Barnes making Jonas Valanciunas and Tim Duncan proud with his consecutive missed bunnies. Suffice it to say that we don’t need to recap their disastrous run and should never be in a similar event. Let’s just say, they’ll end up on Shaqtin’ a Fool.
Evan Mobley opened up the final game with a three-pointer, and with a 25-point ELAM target, this was an actual basketball game. Mobley tried to pull off a fade-away middy against Precious Achiuwa but fell short. Achiuwa drove against Ignite phenom Dyson Daniels and Daniels blocked his shot, LOL. Team Isiah’s three straight three-pointers courtesy of Desmond Bane, Achiuwa, and Saddiq Bey sandwiched an excellent play from Mobley, who found a cutting Franz Wagner for a dunk.
Cade Cunningham started to take control of the game with his playmaking. His drive to the basket cut the Team Isiah lead to 11-10. However, Achiuwa caught fire as he got to the midrange and followed it up with a three-pointer for an 18-12 lead. Cunningham would not let Team Barry lose, and he found Jae’Sean Tate for an and-1 to cap off an 8-0 run to take a 20-18 lead for Team Barry.
Achiuwa remained hot and got to the short-range for an and-1, but he missed the free throw, keeping the game tied at 20. Now, to complete the “Precious Achiuwa” experience - Achiuwa got the rebound off Haliburton’s miss, decided to pull it back to the corner three WHILE looking off a wide-open Bane to call his number and air-balled the corner three. The play got him a costly trip to the bench, as his replacement, Ignite’s Jaden Hardy, turned the ball over, which led to Cunningham finding a wide-open Wagner for a three-point dagger, giving team Barry a 24-21 lead. Team Isiah tried to come back, but Bey missed a contested three-pointer, while beef stew could not contain the rebound, and Cunningham found a streaking Wagner, who got fouled and hit the game-winning free throw.