On a night filled with dunks, three-pointers and highlight-reel plays, Team USA defeated Team World, 157-154, to take home the 2016 NBA Rising Stars Challenge crown at Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
And for the second year in a row, the most dynamic player on the floor hailed from the Minnesota Timberwolves, as second-year guard Zach LaVine took home MVP honors by totaling 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win.
As TSN's Josh Lewenberg noted, Friday night was likely just the start of a big weekend for the 20-year-old:
LaVine claims his first trophy of the weekend as Rising Stars MVP. Can't imagine he'll have much trouble adding a Dunk championship tomorrow— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 13, 2016
LaVine's Minnesota and Rising Stars teammate Karl-Anthony Towns chipped in with 18 points, seven boards and four dimes, while Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker (23 points) and Los Angeles Lakers point guard D'Angelo Russell (22 points) both acquitted themselves nicely.
In the losing effort, 2015 Rising Stars Challenge MVP and Toronto native Andrew Wiggins poured in 29 points on 13-of-15 shooting to go with five assists. Along with New York Knicks phenom Kristaps Porzingis, the two World stars did the heavy lifting for the international side early and often, per ESPN Stats & Info:
Andrew Wiggins and Kristaps Porzingis combined to make 22 of their first 27 shots in the Rising Stars Challenge— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 13, 2016
Porzingis went on to finish with 30 points, five rebounds and four assists, but as Jason Concepcion joked on Twitter, Knicks interim head coach Kurt Rambis likely wasn't pleased with the rookie's high-flying stylings:
rambis is like "yeah good game but kristaps needs more elbow touches and post ups"— ☕netw3rk (@netw3rk) February 13, 2016
As is always the case at the Rising Stars Challenge, the court was clear for takeoff all night long. Wiggins got things started with a pretty finish on a lob from Denver Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay (30 points, 10 assists):
But Team USA refused to be outdone in the show-stopping department. On the other end, Milwaukee Bucks second-year sensation Jabari Parker broke out a ferocious windmill jam that sent the Canadian crowd to its feet:
Jabari throws down the windmill! 👀 https://t.co/81LSFct063— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) February 13, 2016
Before the first half came to a close, Dallas Mavericks big man Dwight Powell stole a page out of Porzingis' book and threw down a vicious putback dunk:
STRONG finish by Dwight Powell! 😳 https://t.co/nhS3qPCkzb— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) February 13, 2016
With points flowing at an outrageous pace, seemingly every player's stat line was stuffed. Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson led Team USA with 19 points after the first 20 minutes and went on to finish with 25. Orlando Magic guard Mario Hezonja added 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists for the global hoopers.
Mudiay, meanwhile, exploded for 21 points in the first half, though it wasn't enough to prevent Team USA from establishing an 88-79 lead at the break.
The furious pace continued in the second half, and Philadelphia 76ers big man Jahlil Okafor even flaunted some rarely seen range, as the team's official Twitter account documented:
Not to be outdone, the Timberwolves tandem of LaVine and Towns connected for a lob finish, which has become a familiar sight in Minnesota, per NBA on TNT:
But for LaVine, Friday night was an appetizer as he prepares to defend his Slam Dunk Contest crown Saturday night against a stacked field that includes Magic forward Aaron Gordon, Nuggets swingman Will Barton and Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond.
And if the Rising Stars Challenge was any indication, LaVine should have plenty of jaw-dropping dunks in store with All-Star Saturday supremacy in mind.
NBA on TNT relayed footage of LaVine accepting his MVP award:
When LaVine hit the postgame podium to talk with reporters, he had some fun with his father, per Timberwolves PR on Twitter:
Zach's dad grabs the mic, asks him who he got his athleticism from. Zach's answer: "His mom."— Timberwolves PR (@Twolves_PR) February 13, 2016
Wiggins, meanwhile, offered his take on the rise of Canadian basketball, according to Lewenberg:
"Before no one thought we'd have Canadians in this game... Keep it coming"- Wiggins, the people's MVP pic.twitter.com/cVOg85A4aQ— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 13, 2016
"I got it last year, he got it this year, KAT's gonna get it next year," Wiggins said of LaVine's MVP, per CBSSports.com's James Herbert. "Back-to-back-to-back."