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Highlights, notes, even injury updates from 2023 NBA All-Star Game

SALT LAKE CITY — Jayson Tatum set an NBA record by dropping 55 points, earning him the All-Star MVP award. Damian Lillard put on a shooting exhibition (just like he did the night before). Ja Morant put on a dunking clinic.

Those moments of skill gave us plenty to remember from the 2023 NBA All-Star Game. As usual, guys didn’t pack their defense for the trip to the Rocky Mountains, it was not a particularly entertaining game (and certainly not well played), but they gave the fans what they wanted — this is an exhibition, after all. It made for good theater.

Here are some highlights, as well as some notes from the 2023 NBA All-Star Game:

• Team captain Giannis Antetokounmpo scored the first bucket of the game on a dunk, then instantly fouled Luka Donicic, subbed himself out and did not return. He sprained his wrist in the Bucks’ final game before the break and had a wrap on it for this game.

“Hard decision, but it was my decision to kind of take a break here, and hopefully I can be available for my team [when play restarts],” Antetokounmpo said.

Antetokounmpo is headed to New York for a specialist to look at his wrist, according to a report.

• The other team captain, LeBron James, had maybe the dunk of the night with this alley-oop off the backboard to himself.

• LeBron did not play in the second half due to what the Lakers called a hand contusion. LeBron said postgame he suffered that when he tried a chase-down block and caught it on the rim. He was expected to play limited minutes even if he was healthy, so there is no surprise here, the hand injury is nothing Lakers fans should worry about.

• This is Antetokounmpo’s first win as a team captain (1-2) and the first loss for LeBron in that role (5-1).

• If it hadn’t been for Tatum’s historic night, Donovan Mitchell would have been MVP — and it would have been fitting in his return to Utah. He got some of the loudest cheers of the night.

• One of the more entertaining parts of the night was when MVP Tatum and fellow Celtic Jaylen Brown started isolating on each other in the third. They both got their shots in — and Brown hit Tatum with the “too small.”

• The third quarter became all about the 3-ball, with Tatum and Donovan Mitchell trading off-deep 3s (Tatum had five in the quarter on his way to 27 points in the frame). Mitchell was hitting from almost the logo.

Damian Lillard watched all this and said, “hold my beer.”

• The always-clutch Lillard also closed out the game from 3.

• Nikola Jokić is the two-time MVP and looks like the frontrunner for a third, yet he was the seventh of eight starters picked. Did that bother him?

“I would not draft myself either. I’m not meant for this game,” Jokić said with a laugh.

He also said he felt terrible about the pre-game draft, where he started walking over to LeBron before his name was called, leaving Lauri Markkanen just sitting there. Jokić said he didn’t know the Jazz forward was there and thought he was the last pick.

• On Saturday, Ja Morant said no to doing future Dunk Contests, then on Sunday night showed why everyone wants him to do it.

• Before the second half, the NBA brought out the second and third all-time scorers in NBA history — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Karl Malone (the latter of whom the Jazz crowd loved but makes much of the NBA wince now) — to honor the new all-time leading scorer LeBron James.

• DeMar DeRozan’s reaction when the announcer called him the “master of the midrange” was fantastic.

• The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown, coming off a facial fracture that caused him to miss games, played with a mask on. He still scored 35, it didn’t seem to slow him down.

• “I played and had fun, and that’s what All-Star Game is all about,” said Joel Embiid, who had hinted over the past couple of weeks he might skip the All-Star Game to let his body rest. Not only did he play, he scored 32.