On the night where Zion bent a backboard, USA wins Rising Stars game

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CHICAGO — In an unusually entertaining All-Star Friday night Rising Stars game, fans got to see Luka Doncic draining halfcourt shots, Miles Bridges putting on a personal dunkfest then hoisting the MVP trophy, and, for anyone that cared, a 151-131 Team USA win.

That’s not how any of us will remember this game.

This will forever be the game where Zion Williamson broke the backboard.

“When it was halftime, my teammates started telling me about it,” Williamson said, adding he had no idea when it happened. “I don’t think it was me, honestly.”

It was him.

And it was the most memorable highlight of a surprisingly entertaining game.

The Rising Stars game is usually a fairly predictable affair, with a couple of highlights punctuating a game with all the structure of a YMCA pickup run. That’s kind of how this edition started.

Usually, this game has all the fundamentals of a Venice Beach playground game — a whole lot of showboating and attempted spectacular plays — but the first quarter was strangely unenergetic and filled with the “right” basketball plays. Not that there was any defense, but there were kick-outs to the corner instead of dunks, lay-ups, and Rui Hachimura knocking down midrange jumpers. RJ Barrett even used a Euro foul to stop a Williamson alley-oop chance (which drew some boos from the crowd).

But in the final minutes of the first half the game opened up, starting with Ja Morant finding Zion Williamson for the alley-oops everyone came to see.

Then Doncic drained a shot from halfcourt, joking with Trae Young.

The World led by 10 points at the half, led by Barrett’s 15 points, but Charlotte’s Bridges Tweeted out during halftime the USA would get serious when they came out of the locker room.

“The World team was killing us, so we said let’s play for real and I Tweeted that,” Bridges said.

The USA did start to play for real. Bridges and Collin Sexton started to lead a comeback, with the USA eventually grabbing the lead on back-to-back Devonte Graham deep threes. Not long after, Graham’s teammate Bridges had maybe the dunk of the night (at least that didn’t break any equipment).

The USA pulled away in the fourth and the final minutes of the game became a dunkfest, with everyone clearing out and guys trying to put on a show — but Zion could not get his to go.

The World team’s Barrett led all scorers with 27, and Memphis’ Brandon Clarke added 22. Sexton had 21 for the USA squad, with Bridges adding 20. For a

“I stayed at the YMCA in Flint [Michigan] all day and night just trying to get to this level,” Bridges said.