Team LeBron and Team Durant clash in Atlanta for 2021 ASG

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Courtesy of NBA on ESPN

Team LeBron (top) wore yellow jerseys against Team Durant (bottom) who suited up in blue. This year’s game was played at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, GA.

The 2021 NBA All-Star Game took place on Sunday, March 7, 2021 in the great southern city of Atlanta, Georgia. This was an All-Star weekend filled with many unknowns and some uncertainty due to it being played during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the NBA led by Commissioner Adam Silver was ultimately able to put together a great, exciting, and entertaining event.

This year, the All Star game was a matchup between “Team LeBron”, led by 17-time All Star LeBron James, and “Team Durant”, headed by 11-time All Star Kevin Durant. James was the leading overall fan vote-getter in the Western Conference, while Durant led the Eastern Conference in fan votes.

After the twelve All-Stars from each conference were selected, (24 total All-Stars), James and Durant as the captains of their teams conducted an actual draft in which they selected from the pool of players voted as All-Stars to assemble their respective rosters for this year’s game.

Durant, himself, was not able to play in this year’s game due to a hamstring injury, but he decided he would still serve as captain for his team. Celtics forward Jayson Tatum was selected to replace KD in the starting lineup.

In the draft, Team LeBron had the first overall pick from the starters selected, and with it James chose 2-time reigning league MVP, Giannis Antetokounmpo. 

With the second overall pick, and his team’s first, Durant selected his Brooklyn Nets teammate, Kyrie Irving. With his remaining picks, LeBron drafted Warriors superstar Stephen Curry, Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic, and Mavericks guard Luka Doncic to round out his team’s starting five. 

 

Durant’s starting lineup consisted of Irving, Bradley Beal, Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, and Joel Embiid. However, due to COVID-19 related contact tracing protocols, unfortunately Embiid was unable to play in the game, and thus was replaced in Team Durant’s starting lineup by Zion Williamson.

Once the game tipped off, it was all fun and action right from the start. Stephen Curry came out red-hot and knocked down four 3-pointers in the first quarter for Team LeBron.

Giannis Antetokounmpo also got out of the blocks fast for Team LeBron, as he made several shots in the first quarter. Giannis and Steph were definitely the stars of the show to start off the game, with both of them showcasing their offensive greatness. 

Despite Team LeBron’s great start, Team Durant held their own and kept the score close thanks to the scoring of Kyrie Irving and Tatum. Not to mention, Team Durant also had arguably the most prolific scorer in the league, James Harden, who came off the bench and delivered some points for their squad.

Ultimately though, Team LeBron won the first quarter by a score of 40-39.

As for the second quarter, the story was a little bit different. Team LeBron flat-out absolutely DOMINATED, and put up an unbelievably ridiculous SIXTY (60) points on the scoreboard in just the second quarter alone. 29 of those 60 points were scored in just the final 4:30 of the quarter. It was, simply put, the Damian Lillard and Steph Curry show. 

The two elite guards, both on Team LeBron sharing the floor at the same time, traded turns with each other throwing up near-half-court shots, 43-foot three point bombs simply for the fun of it. Both Curry and Lillard nailed the bottom of the net on these incredibly deep threes and got everyone watching fired up and excited to end the second quarter. Both Lillard and Curry had their unbelievably deep shooting range on display all night long, as both of them sunk a total of EIGHT three-pointers each in the game.

The score at halftime was a 100-80 Team LeBron lead.

The 3rd quarter was a bit more even than the 2nd was, as Team Durant played very well on offense. They were led by the great scoring of Beal, Irving, and James Harden. On the other side, though, there was absolutely no stopping The Greek Freak from scoring. The five-time All-Star Antetokounmpo kept on piling up the points and getting buckets for Team LeBron.

At the end of Quarter #3, Team LeBron led 146-125 after winning the 3rd quarter just barely, 46-45.

In the 4th quarter, the rules of this game were a bit different than every other NBA game. The game clock was literally turned off- no clock set with “12:00” to begin the quarter. Instead, the team that would win the game had to reach a “target score”- a set specific number of points, and whichever team hit that magic number first was the winner of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game.

The target score was +24 points from the leading team’s score at the end of the 3rd quarter. This number of 24 was a tribute to the late NBA legend Kobe Bryant, who wore the No. 24 jersey for the Lakers during much of his great career.

That being said, +24 from Team LeBron’s point total at the end of the third (146) meant the target score to hit was 170.

In this 4th quarter, to begin it, it was the All-Star reserves who led the way for Team LeBron: Chris Paul, Jaylen Brown, and Paul George.

George and Brown knocked down a few three-pointers, with the 11-time All Star point guard Paul orchestrating all the shots through his tremendous passing ability. CP3, in a somewhat quiet fashion, actually tallied an eye-popping statline in this game— despite scoring just 6 points, Paul racked up a noteworthy 16 assists to go along with 8 rebounds and 3 steals.

The teams went back and forth for a while trading baskets, but the last eleven points of the game for Team LeBron came all on incredible shots made by, none other than, Damian Lillard. And the final two shots specifically.. were both from well beyond the arc. 

First, to hit 167 points, Lillard caught a quick pass from Chris Paul and nonchalantly pulled up to shoot from 26 feet from the basket. The ball nailed the back of the rim and sunk through the bottom of the net. Just like that, to almost nobody’s surprise, Lillard drained the 26-foot three pointer and made it look as easy as an unguarded layup. 

Then finally, to put the game to an end and place the final dagger in the heart of Team Durant, Lillard slowly dribbled down the court and again pulled up from way downtown- this time from 40 feet out.

“Alright, what’s Lillard thinking about here..”, Commentator Marv Albert said just a split second before Lillard shot up the long-range bomb.

“Game.. He’s thinking about game! He’s thinking about Dame-time!”, exclaimed fellow commentator Reggie Miller as the ball sunk through the net to officially end the game. 

It was just a step or two in front of the halfcourt line from where he pulled up and shot from, and the ball did almost exactly the same thing as it had just a minute before- hit the back of the rim and went right through the net.

Game. Over

Team LeBron defeated Team Durant and took home the 2021 All-Star Game win, 170-150.

 

Game notes:

-1st time All-Stars: Julius Randle (NYK),  Zion Williamson (NOP),  Zach LaVine (CHI),  Jaylen Brown (BOS),  Mike Conley (UTA).

-Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid were unable to play due to COVID-19 exposure the previous day.

-Utah guard Mike Conley replaced the injured Devin Booker on Team Durant.

 

Final Stats: Team LeBron

Damian Lillard- 32 points, 2 rebounds, 8 3PM

Stephen Curry- 28 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 8 3PM

Jaylen Brown- 22 points, 5 rebounds, 8/12 FG

Giannis Antetokounmpo- 35 points, 7 rebounds, perfect 16/16 shooting. Named 2021 All-Star Game MVP.

 

Final Stats: Team Durant

Kyrie Irving- 24 points, 5 rebounds, 12 assists

Bradley Beal- 26 points, 4 assists, 6 3PM

Jayson Tatum- 21 points, 7 assists, 4 steals

James Harden- 21 points, 4 assists, 7 3PM