Sports Corner

By: Robert Bishop

Back again, and before diving into the NBA’s weekend festivities, the Phoenix Suns received some tough news on Friday as it was revealed that Chris Paul suffered a fracture in his thumb, an injury that will likely sideline him for the next six-to-eight weeks. Oddly, the injury didn’t prevent Paul from playing a few minutes in Sunday’s All-Star Game. Phoenix will likely slot Cameron Payne into a significant role with Paul sidelined for approximately the next two months. It also seems likely that Devin Booker will operate as the team’s offensive facilitator, a potentially exciting development for basketball fans. The Suns have a solid lead in the standings, but retaining the top spot in the West will be a much more difficult feat without Paul. 

Golden State sits in second place in the West, and on Sunday night, Warriors fans were treated to a staggering display of dominance from Stephen Curry. In the All-Star Game, with defense at a minimum, Curry exploded for 50 points while knocking down an absurd 16 triples. The impressive offensive effort earned Curry the game’s MVP Award. Giannis Antetokounmpo also shined in the contest as Curry’s teammate, finishing with 30 points, 12 boards, and six assists. The team’s captain, LeBron James, wasn’t the most impactful on the stat sheet, but with the festivities in Cleveland, it was fitting that James knocked down the game-winning basket. 

In defeat, Joel Embiid put on a show as a member of Kevin Durant’s squad. Embiid scored a team-high 36 points, while Devin Booker scored 20 off the bench. Embiid now gets the chance to rest as the 76ers won’t be in action again until Friday, and the possibility of James Harden making his team debut lingers in the foreground. Embiid is the NBA’s MVP front-runner heading out of the All-Star break, and deservedly so, as he has almost single-handedly kept the 76ers alive in the playoff race at times this season. Adding Harden—provided he is healthy and motivated—alongside Embiid is a thrilling proposition for the 76ers and a must-watch one for basketball fans. 

Moving back to the All-Star game’s precursor festivities, Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge adopted a new format this season, and the result was a much more fun product. Rookie Cade Cunningham took home the game’s MVP Award thanks to a dazzling performance in which he scored 18 points and handed out nine dimes, showcasing a skillset that will likely have him as a participant in more than a few All-Star Games in coming seasons. Cunningham’s rookie season in Detroit has not been an unmitigated success. Still, he is steadily improving while also dealing with one of the NBA’s highest rates of being double-teamed. Cunningham remains on the trajectory for stardom, and Friday night was a friendly reminder. 

On Saturday night, Karl-Anthony Towns put forth a dominant showing in the 3-point contest to win, benefitting from the second-highest ever total in a final round. Towns was an afterthought participant in the event, trailing all his competition in volume of outside shooting during the regular season. However, Towns proved that the only thing keeping him from ranking among the best outside scorers is an opportunity as he outpaced the likes of Trae Young, Patty Mills, and Fred VanVleet in the competition. The Timberwolves coaching staff needs to spend the next few days designing a few plays to get Towns some extra looks from deep per game. Towns is hitting over 40% from beyond the arc for the season on only five attempts. By comparison, Towns’ teammates Anthony Edwards, Malik Beasley, and D’Angelo Russell combine to average over 24 attempts from three per game while shooting below 36%. Minnesota needs to realize Towns’ greatness.