Kyrie Irving

All-Star Saturday to feature East vs. West format for the first time

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All-Star Saturday night, as part of the NBA’s All-Star weekend slate of festivities, has been largely about two events: the Slam Dunk Contest, followed by, to a much lesser extent, the Three-Point Contest.

There are four events in total that make up the Saturday night program, however, and the league is trying something this year to perhaps get a few more people interested in the evening’s first two events.

From the official release:

For the first time, State Farm All-Star Saturday Night will feature a new format that pits the Eastern Conference against the Western Conference in a night of competition that will raise money for charity, the NBA and State Farm announced today.

As part of the new format, points earned by each conference throughout the four All-Star Skills Competitions will determine the conference that earns the title of 2013 State Farm All-Star Saturday Night Champion.  Also, each conference will have an All-Star Saturday Night captain who will lead his team during the event.

The first two events are the Shooting Stars and the Skills Challenge — the former is an around-the-world style competition that ends in a half-court shot (which is what ultimately makes it watchable), while the latter is an obstacle course of sorts that the league’s best guards try to navigate in as fast a time as possible.

Having attended All-Star weekend the last four years, I can tell you the arena doesn’t fill up on time on Saturday, as people really only care about making sure they see the evening’s two marquee events.

I’m not sure that this new wrinkle will change that, although at least the league is trying, and the fact that it’s doing it in the name of charity can only be viewed as a positive.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.