NBA Rising Stars Challenge 2019: Lakers' Kyle Kuzma named MVP; Hawks' Trae Young gets fancy in entertaining dunkfest
Some of the league's best young talent was on display in Friday night's Rising Stars game
Well, another NBA All-Star Rising Stars game has come and gone. Alley-oops were thrown. Basketballs were dunked. Defense was avoided at all costs. But just because it didn't resemble a real basketball game doesn't mean it wasn't thoroughly entertaining, as Team USA took down Team World, 161-144.
It became clear pretty early which players were gunning for MVP and which were content taking a backseat, but it was Los Angeles Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma who ended up coming away with the award after putting up a game-high 35 points to go along with six rebounds.
Celtics forward Jayson Tatum also made a bid for MVP with 30 points and nine rebounds.
Here are some takeaways as the league's best young stars took center stage on Friday night.
Kuzma. Gets. Buckets.
Kuzma has never seen a shot he didn't like, and that carried over into the Rising Stars game. Never shy, Kuzma launched a game-high 27 field goal attempts, including 10 3-pointers en route to his 35 points.
Simmons wasn't messing around
Some thought 76ers star Ben Simmons might not play very hard (or very much) given the fact that he'll also compete in Sunday's All-Star game, but instead he came out with ferocity. Every time you looked up he was throwing down another rim-rattling dunk, and he finished with 28 points on 14-of-17 shooting, plus six assists and five rebounds.
Had the World Team pulled it out, he likely would have been the MVP.
Trae's got some sauce
Casual fans might not get to see Trae Young on an everyday basis, so the Hawks rookie showed out in front of the national audience to kick off All-Star Weekend. Young sizzled with 25 points (including 6-of-11 3-pointers), dished out 10 assists, and made some of the most jaw-dropping moves of the evening, including going between fellow rookie Deandre Ayton's legs for a layup late in the fourth quarter.
John Collins can fly
If Friday night was any indication, we're in for a treat from John Collins during Saturday's Slam Dunk Contest. The Hawks big man put on an absolute show in the Rising Stars game, dunking from every conceivable angle -- reverses, windmills, off-the-backboard. But his most impressive may have been a baseline 360 off of a lob from Young, his Hawks teammate. Talk about chemistry.
Where was Luka?
For as captivating the Rookie of the Year front-runner has been all season, Mavericks phenom Luka Doncic had a relatively quiet performance on Friday. He finished with 13 points, nine assists and five rebounds and hit a couple step-back 3-pointers, but he certainly didn't put his stamp on the game in any major way. Maybe he's using the All-Star break to actually rest a little bit, or maybe he's just not used to playing in ridiculous American exhibition games, but he may come out with a vengeance next year.
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