Canada’s Jamal Murray scores 36 points, named MVP of Rising Stars Challenge

Murray leads World past US in Rising Stars

NEW ORLEANS — Canadian Jamal Murray and Buddy Hield each had moments when they caught the ball in the low post, only to dribble right out to the corner, turn and let fly a 3-point shot.

Maybe not the most fundamental approach, but the way they were scoring in the Rising Stars Challenge, no one seemed to mind — certainly not the fans.

Murray, from Kitchener, Ont., had 36 points and 11 assists as the World squad beat the U.S. 150-141 on Friday night. Hield, a New Orleans Pelicans rookie, added 28 points to the delight of the locals who’ll want to see more of that when the regular season resumes.

“I was feeling it. I was just playing within the game, and I wasn’t trying to force it,” Murray said. “You never know when I’m going to go off. … The guys were telling me to shoot it. Fans were telling me to shoot it. Guys were trying to get me open, so I was just trying to take advantage of that.”

The game featuring top rookies and second-year pros is the main event on the first night of NBA All-Star weekend. While the final score demonstrated the sport’s global gains, both teams had their fair share of highlights.

Murray, a Denver Nuggets rookie out of Kentucky, went 9 of 14 on 3-pointers and was voted the game’s MVP.

“He got hot. Coach is like, ‘Give Jamal the ball,'” Hield said. “When a guy is hot, you can’t stop him from being hot. You can’t be selfish and say, ‘OK, I want to show out.’ I want to show out and I want to get MVP, but he got hot, man. This wasn’t my time. He deserved it. When a guy’s hot, you got to give him the ball. I don’t care who it is. Hats off to him.”

It’s the second time in the last three years that a Canadian has earned the honour after Andrew Wiggins of Vaughn, Ont., captured the game’s MVP award in 2015.

Hield, a Bahamian, was 11-of-22 shooting overall, but just 3 of 12 from deep. Hield’s regular season high is 21 points, but he’s averaged fewer than nine points in an inconsistent first season out of Oklahoma.

Murray essentially sealed the game by hitting three 3s in a span of 49 seconds late in the game.

World coach Mike Brown said he was going to call every play for Murray, “even though we didn’t have any plays. But it was easy, because his teammates were yelling every time the other team scored it or we got a rebound, his teammates were yelling, ‘Don’t pass, Jamal! Don’t pass!’ So he took that to heart and he made some big shots for us.”

Latvian Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks added 24 points.

Frank Kaminsky of the Charlotte Hornets scored 33 for the U.S. team and Karl-Anthony Towns of Minnesota scored 24, highlighted by his dunk of Phoenix guard Devin Booker’s half-court lob.

“We didn’t come up with the win, but we had a good time out there. We had a lot of fun,” said Booker, who had 17 points. “The weekend isn’t over for me. I still have the Skills Challenge (Saturday night), so I’m looking forward to that.”

There wasn’t a whole lot of defence. Both teams shot close to 60 per cent and neither team was fouled enough to attempt double-digit free throws. When the teams didn’t score, it was often because a brazen or flamboyant pass sailed wide of its target for a turnover.

The U.S. had 18 turnovers, the World squad 13.

Croatian Dario Saric of the Philadelphia 76ers added 17 points for the World, outscoring his American Sixers teammate Jahlil Okafor, who had 10 points. But Okafor, who’s reportedly on the trade block, only played 14:34 — less than any other U.S. player — in the 40-minute contest and made the most of his shots, going 5 of 6.

Jonathon Simmons of the San Antonio Spurs scored 19 points for the U.S., throwing down several forceful dunks.

Brett Martel, The Associated Press

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