Updated – 7:47 am
HOUSTON - Isaiah Thomas is not the Sacramento Kings’ best 3-point shooter. He’s not their second, third, fourth or even fifth best either. Shooting 31.5 percent from beyond the arc this season, he’s currently ranked sixth on the Kings’ roster.
But tonight in the Rising Stars Challenge, no player shot the ball better than the 24-year-old point guard. Thomas made 4-of-6 attempts from long range in Team Chuck’s 163-135 victory over Team Shaq in the NBA’s annual rookie/sophomore game.
“It was a great experience,” said Thomas, who finished with an efficient 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting in his first career All-Star Weekend experience. “Met a lot of people. Had fun with fellow rookies and sophomores. And we got the win, so that made it even better.”
Thomas scored his first 12 points from 3-point territory, where his team set the tempo. Thomas and Team Chuck made 17-of-32 attempts from 3-point land in the 28-point victory, which was also the most points ever scored in Rising Star history.
Not only did Thomas wow from beyond the arc, but the Kings second-year guard also showed his off facilitating skills. Thomas matched a team and game-high 10 assists on an array of passes to teammates that led to either dunks or wide-open shots.
“I just go out there and play,” Thomas said of his overall effort this evening. ”It was like a regular game to me. I just tried to have fun, tried to play hard. But having my parents out here and having them smile and be happy is what’s most important to me.”
For the first time in the game’s history, fans voted the starters for Friday’s rookie/sophomore challenge. Thomas didn’t make cut, losing out the chance to start for Team Chuck’s backcourt to Ricky Rubio and Bradley Beal.
Following a stellar half, Thomas had a chance at Rising Stars’ MVP. He scored 14 points and tallied seven assists before halftime, but wasn’t able to duplicate that success after intermission. It didn’t help his case either when a one-on-one contest of ankle breaking proportions broke out between Team Shaq’s Kyrie Irving and teammate Brandon Knight late in the game.
“Just happened, honestly, a couple of plays down, going down the court with him,” Irving said of the spontaneous head-to-head battle with Knight. ”But more or less, that kind of rivalry with me and B. Knight has been happening since high school, since we started playing against each other. We were battling for the one and two spot in high school. He’s a good friend of mine, it’s great competition.”
The game’s MVP honors went to Kenneth Faried. The Denver Nuggets forward was four made shots away from a perfect outing, finishing 18-of-22 from the field and scoring a game-high 40 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in Team Chuck’s sound defeat of Team Shaq. Faried received four of a possible seven MVP votes, with Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers earning two and Tristan Thompson garnering the other.
“I came out with the intent to put on a performance,” said Faried, who scored the second-most points in Rising Stars Challenge history, during his postgame interview session. ”But I wasn’t thinking MVP type of performance. I was just thinking about winning the game and enjoying myself. And pretty much enjoying the game. I love to play.”