Duke in the NBA: Tatum earns MVP, Banchero and Griffin make debuts at All-Star weekend

Paolo Banchero made his All-Star weekend debut for Team Pau.
Paolo Banchero made his All-Star weekend debut for Team Pau.

As the NBA reaches its midseason break, four former Blue Devils shined in Salt Lake City during All Star Weekend. The Blue Zone takes a look at how Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Jayson Tatum and Kyrie Irving fared over the weekend:  

Friday night: Rising Stars game

Rookies Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin kicked off the All-Star festivities by playing in the annual Rising Stars game. Banchero’s Team Pau ended up taking home the four-team tournament championship. Opening against former teammate Griffin, the 2022 first-overall pick put up a respectable nine points and five rebounds. In his team’s 40-25 loss, Griffin notched three points. Banchero, scoring four points in the final, helped his squad take the title home against Team Joakim

Saturday night: Skills and 3-point competition

As is tradition, the skills competition started NBA All-Star Saturday night. Playing with a team full of other rookies, namely Jabari Smith Jr. and Jaden Ivey, Banchero’s performance was a comedic low of the weekend. In the final shooting competition, the first-years made just two shots, to which former All-Star Draymond Green commented on-air, “this is crazy.” If it gives Blue Devil fans any solace, Banchero hit both of the midrange jumpers to put the team of rooks on the board. 

In the objectively more exciting competition, former Duke and current Celtics standout Jayson Tatum participated in the 3-point contest. Although getting off to a slow start with his unfortunately placed moneyball rack, the MVP candidate found his range, connecting with enough shots to reach a respectable score of 20 points. Although it looked like Tatum may skirt by into the final round, Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard eliminated the St. Louis native with 26 points en route to his first 3-point contest victory. 

Sunday night: All-Star game

Mavericks point guard Kyrie Irving and Tatum represented Duke in Sunday’s All-Star game. Tatum was surely the story of the night. Winning the MVP in convincing fashion, the forward shot 22-of-31 from the field and ended with a 55-point, 10-rebound double-double for Team Giannis. The 55 points are the most in NBA All-Star game history, beating Anthony Davis’ 52-point performance in 2017. Irving, fresh off his blockbuster trade to Dallas, had a big night for Team LeBron with 32 points and 15 assists. Although he was named an All-Star, Pelicans forward Zion Williamson was unable to participate in the weekend’s showcase. 

As Tatum and Irving look to contend for the NBA Finals title with their respective teams, Sunday night was a time to celebrate their first-half achievements. Now, the pair enters a brief three-day break before returning to regular season action with their clubs. 


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