Giannis leads Team LeBron to victory

    SHOWING ‘EM: Team LeBron forward Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates after winning the MVP award of the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. REUTERS PHOTO

    GIANNIS Antetokounmpo’s All-Star experience was perfect on the court Sunday night (Monday in Manila).

    Then it got even better as he angled for a special invitation for his year-old son, Liam, afterward.

    Antetokounmpo made all 16 of his shots in a historic 35-point performance that propelled Team LeBron to a 170-150 victory over Team Durant in the NBA All-Star Game in Atlanta.

    After earlier capturing the 3-Point Contest, Stephen Curry combined with Damian Lillard for 16 3-pointers and 60 points for Team LeBron, which won each of the first three quarters en route to a 146-125 lead that it massaged into the winning margin.

    Each team lost a player when it was announced earlier in the day that Philadelphia 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons would not be allowed to participate due to COVID tracing. Each had gotten a haircut from a barber who subsequently tested positive.

    Twenty-year-old Zion Williamson replaced Embiid in the Team Durant starting lineup, becoming the fourth-youngest starter in NBA history. Durant also did not play in the game because of a hamstring injury.

    The win was the fourth in a row for the team selected by LeBron James under a revised roster dispersal that started in 2018. James played just 13 minutes in the first half before sitting out the entire second half with the game relatively in hand.

    Antetokounmpo’s 16-for-16 game doubled the previous All-Star record of the Philadelphia 76ers’ Hal Greer, who made all eight of his shots in the 1968 in-season classic.

    For his effort, Antetokounmpo, who was 3-for-3 on 3-pointers, was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Player.

    The Milwaukee Bucks star was so hot, he even banked in a pair of 3-pointers.

    “(The bank,) usually it’s closed, but not for me,” Antetokounmpo joked over the arena’s PA system while accepting the MVP trophy at center court. “For me it was open with extended hours. I called ahead.”

    All of Antetokounmpo’s shots came in the first three quarters, after which he acknowledged he was informed by Team LeBron teammate Nikola Vucevic that he had a 16-for-16 night going. He wanted more nonetheless, but decided against pushing it, he later admitted.