When the NBA first announced last month that it was making changes to the All-Star Game format for 2020, those changes were met with skepticism — and with plenty of jokes about how convoluted the quarterly mini-games and fourth-quarter target score sounded.
However, the general consensus after Sunday night’s game is that the new format worked much better in practice than in theory. Since the team that won each quarter earned $100K for its charity, the end of each quarter essentially turned into “crunch time.” That was especially true in the third quarter when Team Giannis executed a Trae Young/Rudy Gobert lob with 2.2 seconds left to tie the score at 41.
The fourth-quarter target score then inspired both teams to go into lockdown mode on defense in the final moments of the game. As Team Giannis and Team LeBron vied to get to 157 points, the effort level increased and the game got more physical, as players dove for loose balls and drew offensive fouls. Against increased pressure, the two teams shot just 35.5% from the floor in the fourth quarter, compared to 55.5% in the first three.
The reviews for the format were almost unanimously positive. Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today suggested the game was “one of the more entertaining and competitive All-Star Games in the past decade.” ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said the fourth quarter featured the “most intense play this weekend has seen in decades.” Zach Kram of The Ringer wrote that the changes “brought an unexpected playoff atmosphere to an exhibition game typically defined, in part, by a distinct lack of intensity.”
And it wasn’t just media members that were in favor of the changes. Giannis Antetokounmpo said he “loved” the new format and hopes it sticks around (video link via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post). Joel Embiid said in a tweet that it was the “best All-Star Game ever.” Several non-All-Stars around the NBA – including Myles Turner, Lou Williams, Evan Fournier, and others – complimented the changes as well, as ESPN details.
Still, it wasn’t entirely perfect. The game ended when an Anthony Davis free throw pushed Team LeBron’s score from 156 to 157, which was a little anti-climactic. A number of players suggested after the game that they’d rather not see the game end on a foul shot.
If the NBA considers changing that rule, the challenge would be finding a solution that would still disincentivize late-game fouling. Turning every late-game foul into a side-out, non-shooting foul would encouraging the losing team to maul any shooter who might have an open look.
One possible solution, as relayed by Mavericks executive Haralabos Voulgaris (via Twitter), would be for end-of-game free throws to take away points from the losing team rather than add them to the winning team. Even in that scenario though, it would probably be in the losing team’s best interest to foul on a potential game-winning shot.
The target-score ending also may not have been considered such a success if the game hadn’t been so close. Getting to a next-basket-wins scenario was the ideal outcome for the NBA, but the excitement level wouldn’t have been as high if one team had won by 15 or 20 points. Of course, the same could be said of the traditional format.
In the wake of one of the NBA’s most exciting All-Star Games in years, we want to hear your thoughts. Did you like the new format better than the old one? Would you make additional tweaks to the new format?
Vote below in our poll, then head to the comment section to weigh in!
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