CHICAGO — The Elam Ending system was a slam dunk at Sunday’s NBA All-Star game. The new system led to what turned into a very competitive game – especially in the fourth quarter – with Team LeBron ultimately winning, 157-155, over Team Giannis at the United Center.
The system is so unique that even LeBron James, whose basketball IQ is off the charts, was a bit antsy about the new format, However, James ultimately became a huge fan.
“I didn’t know what to expect because it was a new format, new year,” James said. “None of us knew what to expect.
“But throughout the whole fourth quarter and at the end of the game, everybody was like, ‘That was pretty damn fun.’ Yeah, it was extremely fun and a great way to end 2020 All-Star Weekend.”
The basic concept of the Elam Ending system is to make all four quarters a competitive affair in their own right. Each of the first three quarters start with the score 0-0, and at the end of the third quarter a targeted score is announced, and whoever reached it first wins the game.
Also, the cumulative score of the first three quarters are carried over to the fourth quarter, putting added pressure on the team with the lower cumulative score.
In the case of Sunday’s game, Team Giannis led, 133-124, after the third quarter. And using Kobe Bryant’s No. 24 jersey, the targeted score was placed at 157 points.
Team LeBron reached that number when Chicago native Anthony Davis buried a free throw following a wild fourth quarter that saw a coach’s challenge by each coach, loads of missed free throws and field-goal attempts, several charges taken and the type of stout defense by both teams that’s usually reserved for the playoffs.
That competitiveness was a crowd-pleaser, especially for the fans who earlier in the game saw their share of acrobatic dunks, fancy passes and 3-point shooting.
“On the one hand I’m thinking this is great,” Mavs owner Mark Cuban said. “On the other hand I’m thinking, ‘Oh my goodness,’ because it got to the point at the end where everybody was missing shots and it came down to calls, and guys were trying to take charges, which is good in one sense.
“But on the other side, they might have played 25-30 minutes (in the fourth quarter), and it could have gone to 40 minutes. They weren’t subbing no matter what.”
The fourth quarter was not for the faint of heart as both teams turned up their aggression several notches.
“I think with the cumulative score, even though we were down in the first quarter we thought we had to keep plugging to keep it close so it doesn’t get too far away,” Team Giannis coach Nick Nurse said. “Then when we were on the other side of it, we said let’s keep increasing our lead and get as big of an advantage going into the fourth quarter.
“Then, obviously, the end was amazing. I think everybody in the whole place was on their feet watching each possession, and they were really going at it.”
Frank Vogel, the coach of Team LeBron, knows exactly why the players were really taking no prisoners in the fourth quarter.
“I think the format probably had something to do with it,” Vogel said. “But I do think that, while a lot of the All-Star games have not been competitive, usually when it comes down the stretch it becomes very competitive.
“I think with the format the way it was – first team to get to that 157 mark – I think it just became more competitive a little bit longer.”
That precisely what Nurse saw in what was the closest All-Star game since the East edged the West, 141-139, in the 201o mid-season classic played before a record crowd of 108,713 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington.
“Offensively, it was hard to get anything started,” Nurse said. “Even first passes were being denied.
“It felt like the end of a playoff game, which was really cool, I thought.”
In essence, the players gave the fans a lot of playful theatrics for three quarters, then got down to the business of playing basketball in the fourth quarter. Will the NBA keep this format going forward?
“I’m sure there’s tweaks we can make to make it better, but it gave the fans a show,” Cuban said. “I’ve got to tell you it was just really, really fun to watch the best players in the world just playing as hard as they can. It’s the best it’s been in 20 years.”