It’s not victory in the 2021 All-Star Game that Quin Snyder and Rudy Gobert have been working toward — they have bigger goals in mind — but it still felt pretty sweet regardless.
“When we look at where we started seven years ago when he got here, if somebody would have told us that we’re going to be both in the same All-Star team seven years later, we would have said that we have a long way to go,” Gobert said.
It’s not clear if that nonexistent Nostradamus would have foreseen the exact details of the game itself, but here they are regardless:
Snyder, Gobert and Team LeBron pulled away with a 170-150 victory over Donovan Mitchell, Mike Conley and Team Durant. James’s group won every quarter of the night, overwhelming Durant’s squad that was a little short-handed, playing without Joel Embiid (COVID-19 protocols), Devin Booker (a knee sprain), and Durant (hamstring) himself.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led Team LeBron with 35 points on 16-of-16 shooting, including 3-of-3 from deep — a perfect performance that won him an All-Star MVP trophy to go alongside his two regular-season MVP trophies from the last two years.
Weber State product Damian Lillard finished with 32 points, including the half-court shot to end it under the game’s unique Elam Ending rule. Lillard joined 3-point contest winner Steph Curry in putting on a 3-point show during the game itself, as Team LeBron shot over 50% from 3 on the game. Jaylen Brown and Paul George both shot 5 for 7 from deep, too.
“I think (Snyder) took what we did during the season as far as shooting threes, and just told them to take farther and tougher shots,” Donovan Mitchell joked after the game. It’s true: Team LeBron took 61 threes on the night, in an under-48 minute game.
James himself played only 13 minutes, showing that the competition wasn’t exactly top of mind for the MVP candidate for the Lakers. He’d previously stated reluctance to go to the event at all, though players’ attendance is contractually obligated.
Snyder led the group, though he, and the Jazz’s coaching staff were certainly more muted than they would be in a normal contest.
“I did as much as they wanted me to do, which was a couple of plays and a couple of situations to kind of help out any way you can,” Snyder said about his coaching efforts in the game. “But I think they pretty much had it covered.”
Snyder is used to coaching some pretty talented players — remember, he even coached Kobe Bryant during his stint with the Lakers — but there’s nothing quite like an All-Star Game.
“It was a thrill just to look out on the court and see not just All-Stars but Hall of Fame players,” Snyder added. “I don’t know if anyone can ever learn how to shoot like Steph and Dame. That was that was quite an exposition.”
Maybe the most noteworthy in-game event of the night from a Jazz point of view came in the first quarter: A few days after helping to make Gobert the last selection in the All-Star Draft, LeBron James assisted the Jazz’s Frenchman on a bounce-pass alley-oop — yes, you read that right — for his first points of the contest. It was one of four dunks Gobert had on the night.
Gobert finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and an assist, playing 13 minutes overall. He scared a few driving opponents from going up for their usual assortment of All-Star dunks, but never ended up recording a block during the game.
But as both Gobert and Snyder know, the All-Star Game isn’t really about the game itself, it’s about the experience. This year’s was a muted version of events, with the game hastily thrown together in Atlanta due to coronavirus, held largely to make revenue for the league’s television partners.
Still, Gobert was proud of his performance.
“It’s a blessing. It’s something that I never take for granted in the world to be on the floor with all the best players in the world,” Gobert said. “And of course, doing it with my coach Quin, you know, and be able to share with him this first All-Star coaching experience is amazing.”
And now: three days of rest, then time to get back to work on finishing the season as well as they started it.
“We have to be ready to go to war,” Gobert said. “These three days are going to be very important.”