NBA All-Star weekend kicked off Friday night with the much-anticipated Rising Stars Challenge. Featuring the best young talent in the game, the players were split up with “Team World” going up against “Team USA.”
While it was a close game for much of the contest, Team USA pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 161-144 win inside the Spectrum Center.
Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, who was named Most Valuable Player of the game, finished with a game-high 35 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead Team USA to victory.
In his second year in the league, Kuzma continues to be a bright spot for the Lakers as the sophomore averages 19.1 points and 5.6 rebounds per game so far this season.
While he had a fantastic game last year during the Rising Stars contest, the win was significant for Kuzma after falling to the World Team last year.
“Last year, the World team kicked our butts,” Kuzma said. “They came in here and beat us by 30. A lot of us kind of remember that, so we just wanted to get a win. And, there’s a $25,000 bonus for winning the game, so that’s good.”
Boston’s Jayson Tatum also had a terrific game as he finished with 30 points for Team USA. Atlanta’s Trae Young added 25 points off the bench and Utah’s Donovan Mitchell — last year’s NBA Dunk Contest winner — and Marvin Bagley each had 20 points a piece in the victory.
Philadelphia’s Ben Simmons led Team World with 28 points, six assists and five rebounds. Chicago’s Lauri Markkanen finished with 21 points, and Deandre Ayton, Bogdan Bogdanovic and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander all added 15 points a piece in the loss.