By Max Goodman
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – On a night full of high-flying slams, no-look passes and deep three-pointers, the two most memorable plays of Friday’s Rising Stars game came from someone who scored just two points.
Jarrett Allen of the Brooklyn Nets did what he does best — blocking two dunks less than one minute apart — proving that defense still lives on at All-Star Weekend. Even in a game that featured 305 total points.
“That’s just me playing my game,” Allen said. “I’m here for the defense. We had to make stops on the defensive end and that’s just me making a play for my team.”
Allen, who was tied with Atlanta Hawks’ John Collins for the least amount of playing time in Friday’s contest, made the most of his time on the floor in the third quarter. As World Team’s Josh Okogie slashed toward the hoop, attempting a reverse layup, Allen pounced for his first rejection of the evening.
Less than a minute later, with Ben Simmons barreling down the lane, Allen met him at the rim.
“Honestly that one was just instinct,” he said. “I didn’t really jump my fullest — if I got dunked on, I got dunked on — but I ended up getting a piece of it. It worked in my favor.”
“He never hesitates,” World Team’s Rodions Kurucs interjected, cracking a smile postgame with his Nets teammate. “He goes for everything!”
The U.S. Team snapped the World Team’s two-game winning streak, pulling away to win, 161-144. Although defensive plays were few and far between, as just three of the game’s 20 participants had less than double figures, playing hard this year was a standard on both sides of the ball.
“Just to play hard, give back to the game,” Kyle Kuzma said, fresh off a 35 point performance to lead all scorers and secure the game’s Most Valuable Player award. “I played in this last year, and I was really lackadaisical, and I didn’t want to do that again.”
Donovan Mitchell, who poured in 20 points of his own, agreed.
“It was good this year,” he said. “Like I said last year, we kind of got a little out of hand when guys were down like 30 but this year it was competitive, guys were going at each other. I think that was pretty cool.”
In the end, game recognizes game. Collins, who gave fans at the Spectrum Center a sneak peak of how he’ll throw it down in Saturday night’s Dunk Contest with several in-game crowd-pleasing slams, said Allen is one of the best in the business at blocking shots.
“Speaking about dunks, I dunk a lot and he’s one of the few guys that can actually block my shot,” he said. “So, no surprise to me seeing him out there blocking anybody’s shot. If he can block my shot, then he can block anybody’s shot.”
To Allen, he’s just happy he was able to hit his two free throws.
“Those were going to be my only times to score so I wanted to make sure that I shot them well and scored.”