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NBA All-Star Game Preview: Can LeBron continue perfect record?

The 72nd All-Star game takes place on Sunday night, as LeBron James looks to continue his fantastic record as an All-Star captain.

Expect the showpiece game of All-Star weekend to feature plenty of tributes to LeBron just weeks after he became the league’s all-time top scorer. 

Sunday’s game brings together some of the biggest names in the league and the exhibition clash has been hugely revamped in recent years. 

With the All-Star game now more innovative and competitive than ever, there’s plenty to look forward to in this year’s edition.

WhatTeam Giannis @ Team LeBron
WhereVivint Arena, Salt Lake City
When19:30, Sunday February 19th
How to watchTNT, NBA Pass
OddsTeam Giannis +130, Team LeBron -150

New format sets up a decisive draft 

This year has seen a twist on the format for the All-Star game, as the two teams will be drafted live at the arena. 

Recent years have seen the draft broadcast a couple of weeks ahead of All-Star weekend, which led to last year’s awkward finish as Kevin Durant tried to swerve departing teammate James Harden. 

Expect a couple more awkward moments during the live draft this time around as it goes out live around the world. 

LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo will pick between the eight other All-Star starters and 14 reserves to build their rosters, so we don’t yet know the makeup of the teams. 

As for the format of the game itself, it remains the same as in recent years. The scoreline will be reset at the end of each of the first three quarters, with a charity prize up for grabs to the winning team from each quarter. 

The game ends with a target score format, which sees 24 points added to the leading team’s total score from the first three quarters. 

The two sides will then race to that target score, removing the time-wasting and intentional fouling seen at the end of regular NBA games.

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LeBron out to extend brilliant record

While we’re waiting on the two teams to be drafted, there’s plenty we can glean from the two captains already. 

The odds on Team Giannis drifted following the wrist sprain that he picked up playing for the Bucks against the Chicago Bulls on Thursday night. 

However, reporting has suggested that he intends to still feature in the game. Meanwhile, LeBron is looking to defend his perfect record as captain in the year when his greatest achievement will be celebrated. 

King James is 5-0 having been voted in as a captain in every season since this new format was introduced. That includes wins over Giannis in 2019 and 2020, but in each of the last two seasons, LeBron has drafted Giannis onto his team. 

Each of the last two years have seen Kevin Durant ruled out through injury when he was the Eastern Conference captain, which left us with some mismatched teams. 

Giannis tended to take the All-Star draft more seriously than Durant during his stints as captain, so don’t expect an easy victory for LeBron’s team.

Can Sunday provide a Championship hint? 

Each of the last two All-Star MVP winners have gone on to win a championship later that season. Giannis took the award in 2021, while Steph Curry took the prize last year. 

In the two years prior to that, Kawhi Leonard was on course to do the double with the LA Clippers in 2020 before the season was disrupted. 

KD took the All-Star MVP in 2019 and made the Finals, only to go off injured in game five. We could be seeing the beginning of a trend here, so it’s worth considering if anyone can repeat that double in one of the most open NBA campaigns we’ve seen. 

The last man to win both the MVP and All-Star MVP in the same season was Allen Iverson back in 2001, which might cast doubts over -275 favourite for this season’s MVP award, Nikola Jokic, taking Sunday night’s award. 

Two of the top three teams in the title betting have potentially injured stars heading into the game, with KD out for the +400 Phoenix Suns and Giannis questionable for the +400 Bucks. 

However, the Boston Celtics lead the way at +325 for the title this term and it could be Jayson Tatum’s chance to shine. 

This is the first time he’s been voted in as a starter and Tatum could make a huge impact on the game in a season where he’s averaging 30.6 points per game. 

If Tatum can win it – especially under Team Giannis and Boston Celtics’ coach Joe Mazzulla’s watch – the Celtics’ championship credentials will get even stronger.

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