Diehlman at Halftime: An NBA column

Logo for Diehlman at Halftime column. - Graphics Editor / Julia Quennessen

All-Star Weekend is now behind us, and the NBA’s yearly celebration of its athletes lived up to the hype once again! This year’s game was held in Salt Lake City, Utah, at Vivint Arena, home of the Utah Jazz.

In this special edition of “Diehlman at Halftime,” we’ll talk about the Dunk Contest, Three-Point Contest, and the All-Star Game.

Our normal “Highlight, Lowlight, and Random Stat” will return next week.

In addition, the Boston Celtics announced that interim head coach Joe Mazzulla will have the “interim” part removed, as the Rhode Island native will be receiving a contract extension.

Ime Udoka, who Mazzulla replaced, had previously been suspended from the team. In Udoka’s lone season as Boston’s head coach, the Celtics lost in the Finals. He’ll be a big name on the coaching market.

So, who’s raising eyebrows at the moment?

Dunkers Delight:

The Dunk Contest is back! Following last year’s disaster, where Obi Toppin of the Knicks won by default, this year’s competitors put on a show. The four contestants were Jericho Sims of the Knicks, Trey Murphy III of the Pelicans, Kenyon Martin Jr. of the Rockets, and Mac McClung of the 76ers.

Sims and Martin Jr. had clever ideas, but their dunks weren’t spectacular. Take Vince Carter’s iconic Dunk Contest performance in 2000 for example. After his first slam, everyone knew the contest was over. They might as well have handed him the trophy right there. So, Sims and Martin were… meh.

After some impressive dunks in the initial rounds, the final round was between Murphy and McClung. The latter stepped up to the challenge.

Wearing his Gate City high school jersey over his 76ers jersey, McClung did a 540-degree dunk on his final attempt, which gave him the victory over Murphy III.

McClung is the first G-League player to participate in the Dunk Contest (and to win it). I’m glad that the Dunk Contest was brought back into the spotlight after last year’s disappointment. McClung definitely brought the heat to Salt Lake City.

Lights Out from Beyond the Arc:

Give credit where it’s due. The three-point contest is not as easy as it looks. Even some of the best shooters in the league aren’t as good as they usually are in battle.

The participants in this year’s contest were Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield of the Pacers, Tyler Herro of the Heat, Kevin Huerter of the Kings, Lauri Markkanen of the Jazz, Jayson Tatum of the Celtics, Julius Randle of the Knicks, and Damian Lillard of the Trailblazers.

Huerter, who’s averaging a career-high 39.2% from downtown this season, whiffed the hardest. He scored just eight points in the first round.

Although Herro and Randle ran out of time, they were in the bottom half of the scoring anyway. Tatum and Markkanen tied for 20 points, which wasn’t enough for them to advance.

The final round was between Haliburton, Hield, and Lillard. Despite two representatives in the final round being members of the Pacers, Lillard took home the crown. He beat Hield by one point (26-25).

Lillard and Hield have each appeared in the three-point contest three times and won once. I can’t wait to see who will compete next year!

The Main Course:

The All-Star Game was something to behold. In a game that featured Team LeBron (James) vs. Team Giannis (Antetokounmpo), Giannis’ squad was victorious by a final score of 184-175.

Jayson Tatum, who dropped an All-Star Game record 55 points, was named the NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant Most Valuable Player. He broke the previous record of 52 points held by Anthony Davis.

The game itself had plenty of interesting moments. Besides the many long-range shots that were attempted (which players usually wouldn’t take in a regular game), Damian Lillard, with 19 seconds on the shot clock, casually launched and drilled a three from just beyond half-court!

Boston teammates Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown went one-on-one a few times, with both hitting shots against the other. The big story, however, was the lack of playing time for the team captains.

Antetokounmpo scored the first basket of the game before checking himself for the rest of the evening. He suffered a wrist injury a week ago against the Bulls.

James injured his hand on the rim by trying to block a shot. He was held out of the second half as a precaution.

Former Jazz member Donovan Mitchell also had a performance to remember with 40 points for Team Giannis. Although Team LeBron lost, Brown, Joel Embiid and Kyrie Irving combined for 99 points.

It’ll be the Indiana Pacers’ turn to host the weekend-long event next year. Is it too early to start the countdown clock?

For comments/questions about this story tweet @TheWhitSports.