MONTREAL: Minnesota forward Zach LaVine scored 30 points and pulled down seven rebounds to lead the United States to a 157-154 victory over the world team on Friday (Saturday in Manila) in the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge in Toronto.
LaVine was named Most Valuable Player of the contest featuring many of the NBA’s top rookies and second-year players, which launched the festivities of All-Star weekend.
Sunday’s All-Star Game will cap the action at Air Canada Centre, but before then LaVine will defend the title he won last year in Saturday’s Slam Dunk contest.
He limbered up for that event — in which he’ll hope to join Michael Jordan (1987-88), Jason Richard¬son (2002-03) and Nate Robinson (2009-10) as the only back-to-back winners — by leading the squad of US-born rising stars against a World team featuring his Timberwolves team¬mate Andrew Wiggins of Canada, the Knicks’ Latvian rookie Kristaps Porzingis, and the Denver Nuggets’ Congolese guard Emma¬nuel Mudiay.
Both Porzingis and Mu¬diay scored 30 points in the game played in 20-minute halves.
Wiggins, last season’s Rookie of the Year, added 29 points for the World — to the delight of the Canadian crowd.
It was the second straight year that the contest featured a USA v World format, rather than the old first-year v second-year showdown.
The talent and athleticism of the league’s young players was on full display with a bevy of dunks, but there was little in the way of defense to be seen.
LaVine admitted that he wanted to take it to Timber¬wolves teammate Wiggins in front of the Canadian’s home fans.
But he was already looking ahead to his Dunk title defense.
“I’m excited for tomorrow,” LaVine said. “I’m going to try to put on a show.”
Wiggins, who was named MVP after leading the World to the Rising Stars win in New York last year, said he didn’t mind that LaVine earned MVP honors this time around.
He was just happy to put on a show in Toronto.
“It felt great,” Wiggins said. “I got to play in front of a lot of people I haven’t seen in a long time. My family and friends got to watch it. It’s great being back home and playing for my hometown.”