• Kaunda Chama

Team USA downs Team World in Rising Stars game

After maintaining a comfortable lead for almost three quarters, Team Africa took its foot off the pedal and Team USA rallied back to get a solid 151-131 win in the Rising Stars Game on Saturday morning.

As one of the opening events during the NBA’s mid-season showcase, it could almost be viewed as a glimpse into a future All-Star Game, as it was indeed a clash of the future titans.

It featured some of the top talent from Rookie and Sophomore classes in the league.

Top of the bill this year, where potential future MVPs in reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks and the league’s latest phenom Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans.

The game also featured two players with African connections in Beninese-Japanese big man Rui Hachimura of the Washington Wizards, and Nigerian guard Josh Okogie of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

All the players on the floor took advantage of the platform to showcase the caliber of young talent in the NBA.

The game had a relatively slow start with both teams sizing each other up – Hachimura (14 points, seven rebounds, four assists) was the first to make Africa’s mark on the scoreboard with team world’s second basket. His second came from a great lob from Doncic and was the team’s third.

Other notables on the World squad were RJ Barrett (37 points), Brandon Clarke (22 points), and Doncic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Moritz Wagner who put up 16 points apiece.

Young (18 points, four rebunds, seven assists) did not disappoint and showed off his handles with his first bucket early in the first.

Williamson (14 points) also showed off his power-dunking skills and made the most of feeds from his teammates.

The first half of the game ended with Team World’s defense paying off and them leading by 10 with the score at 81-71 in their favour.

Team USA came out firing at the start of the second half with three quick buckets to reduce the World’s team to three. The USA squad outscored the World squad 44-24 in the third quarter, and outscored them 36-26 in the fourth to secure a 20-point victory.

The game’s MVP Miles Bridges (20 points, five rebounds, five assists) was dominant in the third and third and fourth quarters, and played a pivotal role in turning the tide of the game.

Other standouts on the USA team were Eric Paschall (23 points), Colin Sexton (21 points and five rebounds), Young (18 points, four rebounds, seven assists), Kendrick Nunn (16 points), and Jaren Jackson Jr (12 points, seven rebounds).

Overall, with the game having less pressure than a regular season game, it was more of a shooting and dunking expedition as a lot of players tested out their three-point range and hammer skills.

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