This year’s BBVA Rising Stars Challenge was supposed to be a blowout, and it was. But the team that came out on top was not the Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard-led Team Shaq, but Kenneth Faried’s Team Chuck. In typical Manimal fashion, Faried was the most active player on the court throughout, and finished the game with an impressive string of splashy dunks in the final two minutes when both sides stepped aside to allow a dunk-off.
Guards Ricky Rubio, Isaiah Thomas, and Brandon Knight took turns feeding Faried down low, mainly for an array of thunderous alley-oops. After a number of more “conventional” alley-oops in the first half, Faried was on the end of a couple of spectacular plays late in the game. Off of a Faried screen at the top of the key, Rubio dribbled to his right and skipped a pass high off the backboard to Faried. It was a little high, and Faried was just a hair too far from the basket when he received the pass, but he was still able to tip the ball through the hoop and salvage the highlight.
Late in the game, Brandon Knight lofted a perfect pass while on the move at the right elbow that Faried fired through the basket with full force. In the first half, Faried scored a similar basket when he sprinted from rim to rim and caught a lob pass from Isaiah Thomas for a ferocious, full-speed dunk.
There were an array of highlight-reel passes throughout the game, mostly courtesy of Rubio (10 assists), Thomas (10), and Knight (6) for Team Chuck and Irving (6) and Kemba Walker (8) for Team Shaq. The portion of the game that everyone will be talking about was the back-and-forth one-on-one sequence between Irving and Knight that has to be seen to believed. Knight had a horrific sequence late in the game as he tripped and fell on defense, dribbled the ball off his own foot on the offense end, and then had his feet faked out from underneath him by Irving has the Cavaliers’ star drained a long jumper over a falling Knight.
The one-on-one challenge continued, and after Irving scored on Knight four consecutive times without an answer, the Pistons’ point guard finally executed a killer crossover at the top of the key and got around Irving, only to blow the layup. Even though this playground battle between second-year point guards was decidedly one-sided, it was a great series of events and one of the clear highlights of the evening.
Some fun with the box score….
- Faried shot an insane 18 of 22 from the field, and well the majority of his shot attempts were dunks and tip-ins, he also drained a three-pointer in the first half. He also pulled down 10 rebounds, although it seemed like at least twice that amount.
- Rubio played a game-low 16 minutes as he continues to recover from ACL surgery, but he managed to tie with Thomas for the game-high in assists with 10, with many of them being of the highlight variety.
- Team Shaq shot just 9 of 32 from three-point land (28.1%), while Team Chuck shot an insane 17 of 32 (53.1%). And that was pretty much your ballgame.
- All things considered, this game lived up to my expectations, although I would have preferred a closer game at the end. There was a fair amount of highlights, and other than a weird stretch of long two-point jumpers early in the game, most of the shots were of the dunk/layup/3-point variety. Just how an exhibition should be.