In a game evidently not meant for analysis, let’s analyze the 2023 NBA All-Star Game.
Hosted in Salt Lake City, Utah, Team LeBron’s undefeated 5-0 streak finally screeched to a halt at the hands of Team Giannis – and none of the two captains played a part in it.
We’ll delve into that later, but the Boston Celtics duo of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown stole the show on several occasions, especially during their one-on-one battles. Donovan Mitchell, Joel Embiid, Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard also chipped in to add to the entertainment.
Tatum won MVP with a 55-point performance as Team Giannis breezed to a 184-175 victory as the Elam Ending came into effect in the fourth quarter. With the game in the books, let’s look at five winners and losers from the 2023 showcase:
Winner: Jayson Tatum
Tatum took home his first ever All-Star Game MVP award – and it was definitely deserved. His 55 points is the most ever scored in the event, topping Anthony Davis’ 2017 mark of 52.
The 24-year-old scorched the net by making 22 of his 31 attempts, including a 10-for-18 clip from 3-point range, to go with 10 rebounds and six assists, not that the latter two carry any substance in this game.
But in a contest that didn’t have much too much out of the ordinary occurring, Tatum certainly pleased the spectators watching in Vivint Arena and tuning in elsewhere.
Loser: Team names
LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were the two captains for the 2023 game, but neither played significant minutes.
The latter came into the game nursing a wrist injury and didn’t participate alongside his brothers in Saturday's Skills Challenge. In Sunday’s All-Star Game, he played just the first minute and got on the scoreboard with two points before exiting for good.
James played 14 minutes in the first half and logged 13 points, four assists and a rebound on 6-for-11 shooting and a 1-for-5 rate from deep. His best moment was lobbing the ball off the backboard to himself for a big dunk early on.
He would not play at all in the second half due to a hand injury he said was a precaution during his post-game presser. But as far as marketing goes, it perhaps wasn’t the best look for the NBA to have its two marquee headliners play fewer than 15 minutes combined compared to how the 2022 game ended – a LeBron game-winner in a tight affair.
Winner: One-on-one battles
As aforementioned, the All-Star Game lacked juicy events throughout the four quarters minus the usual showboating exchange of dunks thanks to an understandable distaste for defense in the event.
But Tatum and Brown went at it on multiple possessions, reciprocating “too small” gestures to each other after making tough shots over one another. Here’s a look at how some of the plays transpired.
Losers: Lauri Markkanen, De’Aaron Fox
Combining two players in one, Utah Jazz big man Lauri Markkanen and Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox were on the opposite ends of the spectrum to players like Tatum.
The NBA decided to let reserves get drafted before the starters so no one would feel they were drafted last. However, Markkanen and Nikola Jokić were the last two starters in the draft pool, and Markkanen understandably was drafted last. So, the league’s efforts to avoid hurt feelings saw the hometown hero end up being the last pick.
Markkanen, who scored 13 points with Team Giannis, also had the chance to seal the game with a 3-pointer from the left corner, but it went in and out.
Fox, a Team LeBron pick, was the sole player in the game to go scoreless. He played nine minutes and had two dimes to his name, but he botched a wide-open dunk on his lone attempt.
Winner: Donovan Mitchell
Tatum dominated the headlines for scoring 55, but the former hometown kid, Donovan Mitchell, had a night to remember as well.
Spida, who was a Jazz draft pick in 2017 and played there every season until being traded to Cleveland last summer, scored the second-most points on the night, adding 40 to go alongside Tatum on Team Giannis.
Mitchell, a starter, played 30 minutes and shot 15-for-25 overall and 8-for-17 from deep to go with 10 assists, four rebounds and three steals. If it wasn’t for Tatum’s electric showing, Mitchell could’ve very well had a poetic storyline if he won MVP in his former city and arena.