Sabonis records a double-double as World defeats USA in Rising Stars Challenge
LOS ANGELES -- Second-year Pacers center Domas Sabonis made a statement on a national stage Friday night, collecting 13 points and 11 rebounds over 19 minutes in the World team's 155-124 victory over the U.S. team in the Rising Stars Challenge.
Buddy Hield scored 29 points with five 3-pointers and Bogdan Bogdanovic won the MVP award with 26 points and seven 3-pointers for the World squad.
The annual showcase of the NBA's top rookies and second-year players again served as the opening to the three-day All-Star festivities, which are being held in Los Angeles for a record sixth time.
But this show was headlined by two shooting stars from the upstate rivals of the hometown Lakers and Clippers, with Hield and Bogdanovic combining to hit 12 of the World's 23 3-pointers. The World has won this All-Star showcase four consecutive times.
"You know, it was (an) All-Star Game, so it wasn't like a really competitive game," Hield said. "But the World has been getting better. I'm proud to see a lot of guys around the world from France, Australia, you have (Joel) Embiid from Cameroon. Everybody is showing progress, and the world is showing progress catching up to American basketball. This shows how hard we've been working and how dedicated we are to this game."
Indeed, the 10-man American team struggled to keep up with the 10-man team representing everywhere else, from Canada to Croatia to Cameroon. Eight of the World's 10 players hit double figures, including 21 from Denver's Jamal Murray, the Canadian MVP of this game last season with 36 points.
Boston's Jaylen Brown led the U.S. with 35 points and 10 rebounds. Kyle Kuzma, the hometown Lakers' promising rookie, added 20.
Philadelphia's Ben Simmons also was sharp in his rookie debut in the game, with the Aussie No. 1 pick contributing 11 points, 13 assists, six rebounds and four steals while catalyzing the World's offense. His 76ers teammate, Croatia's Dario Saric, also hit four 3-pointers.
Hield, who is from the Bahamas, will be sorry to see the end of his eligibility for this game, in which he scored 28 points last season in New Orleans as a rookie with the Pelicans. The sweet-shooting Kings guard hit five 3-pointers.
Bogdanovic, from Serbia, was even better from long range, going 7 for 13 on 3-pointers and even adding six assists to earn MVP honors.
"I approach every single game the same way," Bogdanovic said. "Try to compete to be the best version of myself that day, and it just happened tonight. You never know when it's going to happen."
Both Kings guards excelled against their Sacramento teammate, De'Aaron Fox, who scored four points for the U.S.
"I told him I would score on him," Bogdanovic said. "I should (have) bet as well, but we didn't bet, so I didn't get some extra money."
The biggest cheers at Staples Center went to Lakers youngsters Kuzma and Brandon Ingram on the U.S. team. The fans also roared for Lonzo Ball, who was selected for the U.S. roster but unable to play due to his lingering knee injury.
Ingram, who scored eight points, and Kuzma were both playing in their third game in three nights, including a loss at Minnesota on Thursday night. But they are the struggling marquee franchise's only representatives at the latest All-Star weekend in its hometown.
The 16-time NBA champion Lakers (23-34), who also had Larry Nance Jr. in the dunk contest before trading him to Cleveland, are likely to miss the playoffs for a team-record fifth consecutive season.
"It was a good pickup game," Ingram said. "Guys got to go out there and hit a few shots and have fun. Got a couple dunks at the end. It was just good for the fans."
Embiid provided the third quarter's best highlight with a nimble spin move into a ferocious dunk while the World padded its lead out to 32 points in the third and 39 in the fourth. Embiid only played nine minutes, but also hit a 3-pointer.
The final seconds devolved into an uncontested dunk contest, and the Americans finally had a few highlights. Brown and Atlanta's John Collins both threw down ferocious, acrobatic slams.
Utah's Donovan Mitchell and Dallas' Dennis Smith Jr. also warmed up for their participation in Saturday's dunk contest with a couple of nasty slams in the first half.