The NBA's best rookies and sophomores put their talents on display inside the Toyota Center in Houston on Friday night in the annual BBVA Rising Stars Challenge.
But in the end, it was Team Chuck coming away with a huge win over Team Shaq, 163–135.
Team Chuck, which won for the second straight year, was powered by an incredible first-half performance that saw Charles Barkley's hand-picked squad cash in on 14 dunks and 12 three-pointers. When it was all said and done, Team Chuck had out-rebounded Team Shaq, 51–24 and finished with 14 more assists.
Here, we'll recap the action and run down some of the event's top moments.
Isaiah Thomas Goes Bananas From Deep
Sophomore Isaiah Thomas gave Team Chuck a huge lift off the bench in the first half, nailing all four of his three-point attempts. In the above sequence, Thomas hits a three-pointer, steals the ball right away and nails another long-range bomb.
At 5'9", Thomas' biggest strength is his excellent touch from outside. Unfortunately, Team Shaq didn't figure that out until it was too late.
The Manimal Unleashed
Kenneth Faried, better known as the "Manimal," went off in the first half for Team Chuck, dropping 19 points on a series of rim-rattling dunks, including this sweet alley-oop from Ricky Rubio.
Faried even hit a three-pointer in the first half, showing early on that losing simply wasn't an option for him and Team Chuck. He would go on to score a game-high 40 points, missing just four shots all night long.
Team Chuck Puts Up 90 in First Half
Coming into Friday's Rising Stars Challenge, many felt that Shaquille O'Neal had the better roster, with talented point guards Kyrie Irving and Damian Lillard leading the backcourt. So most were stunned to see Team Chuck leading by 24 at halftime, having poured in an astonishing 90 points in the first half.
TSN reporter Jermain Franklin tweeted out the halftime score from the nosebleeds:
Jermain Franklin @TSNJFranklin
NBA Rising Stars game. 90-66 for team Chuck (as Barkley) http://t.co/TMT1T6LN2/16/2013, 3:14:30 AM
Wolf Blitzer Makes an Appearance
CNN's Wolf Blitzer was in the house on Friday night, catching a glimpse of the NBA's best young guns in action, and tweeted a photo to prove it:
Wolf Blitzer @wolfblitzer
Courtside at the #NBAAllStar Rising Stars Challenge in Houston #Wolfpack http://t.co/HImDhZJY2/16/2013, 3:25:51 AM
Jack Nicholson's got nothing on Wolf.
Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight Go Back and Forth Late
Late in the game, with Team Chuck leading comfortably, talented sophomore floor generals Kyrie Irving and Brandon Knight began to spice things up with an intriguing individual rivalry.
Tommy Matschiner on Twitter was right on the button:
Tommy Matschiner @TommyMatschiner
Irving and Knight are making the Rising Stars Game worth watching2/16/2013, 3:44:44 AM
Last year's MVP, Irving would finish with 32 points and six assists, while Knight would wind up with just 10 points and six assists. Still, Knight came away with the last laugh as his team won in blowout fashion.
MVP: Kenneth "Manimal" Faried
At times on Friday, Kenneth Faried looked like the only player on the floor trying to win, and his nonstop effort ultimately earned him MVP honors.
Faried threw down countless dunks throughout the game, finishing with 40 points and 10 rebounds on 18-of-22 shooting from the field. Fans will get another look at Faried on Saturday night, where he'll participate in the Slam Dunk Contest.
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