With the plethora of young stars taking the stage in Los Angeles last night, San Antonio Spurs sophomore forward DeJuan Blair and rookie Gary Neal provided fans with some remarkable highlights.
Blair wowed fans with his highlight dunking ability, as Neal showed Hollywood his accurate shooting and ability to hit big baskets in closing moments, as the rookies defeated the sophomores 148 to 140.
DeJuan Blair began the night by scoring the first basket of the game for the sophomores with a 21-foot jumper over rookie phenom Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers.
At the ten-minute mark, Blair played eight minutes and had 12 points (6-7 FG). His only miss was a three pointer. He also caught a one-handed alley-oop dunk to “Wow” the crowd.
Gary Neal started for the rookies and in his first six minutes of action shot two three pointers and made one of them. He had 3 points. The rookies led 33-32 at the ten-minute mark
Blair had a potential play of the night by throwing a pass off the backboard to himself, then he one handed tomahawked the ball on the way down.
Blair had 14 points (7-9, only misses were two three pointers) and 3 rebounds in 12 minutes of action going at the end of the first period.
After sitting down for a few minutes, Neal came back in and quickly scored a pull up three-pointer. He ran down the court and laughingly pointed at Blair for the good humor between the two teammates.
Neal went into halftime with 8 points (3-5 FG, 2-3 three pointers) and 2 assists. The rookie squad led the sophomores 71 to 69.
Blair continued to dominate as he stole the first pass of the second half and finished the play with a layup.
Neal made a magnificent play as he threw an over the shoulder alley-oop to Clippers forward Griffin for a monster dunk. Neal followed by running the fast break on the next play and feeding Griffin for another alley-oop slam.
Neal scored 6 more points in the following sequence: a floating jumper, layup over two defenders and a pretty fade-away jumper.
After Washington Wizards guard John Wall got the arena jumping to it’s feet by performing a bounce pass on the floor that Blake Griffin caught in the air for an alley-oop dunk, Blair ran with the ball coast-to-coast for a one handed dunk.
By the second period 10-minute mark, the Rookies led 111 to 106. At that point, Blair had played 19 minutes, scored 24 points (12-18 FG), grabbed 10 rebounds and had 2 steals with 1 block. Neal had produced 20 minutes, 14 points (6-11 FG) and 4 assists.
With three minutes left in the game and the action beginning to tighten up, Neal scored a floater to increase the rookies small lead. Neal put the sophomores on their heels by scoring another floater to provide a clutch basket.
With two minutes left, fans began chanting “WE WANT BLAKE! WE WANT BLAKE!” and wanted the rookie coaching staff to put Griffin in the game. Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer walked up to Blake on the sidelines and began crossing his arms very widely to explain to Blake and the fans there would be no more of the Blake Griffin show. Griffin and coach Budenholzer laughed on the sidelines.
When the sophomores were just within a bucket of making it a game, Neal shot a three pointer, missed the shot, but got his own rebound and made another critical dagger for the rookies. Neal essentially was the closer for the rookies.
When the buzzer sounded, the final score read rookies 148, sophomores 140.
Blair ended the night by playing 26 minutes, scoring 28 points (14-21 FG), grabbing 15 rebounds and 2 steals plus 2 blocks.
Neal played 26 minutes, scored 20 points (9-15 FG, 2-6 3ptr FG) and had 4 assists.
Even though Wall (12 points, 22 assists) was named the player for the game, Neal was the one to score six points in the closing minutes of the game and seal the game for the rookies.
Catch Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili as they play in the All Star game tomorrow night at Staples Center. Coach Popovich will be coaching the Western Conference All Stars.
Great job by the young guns, Blair the beast and and Gary the "Sniper" Neal. Let's hope for great performances from Duncan and Manu and no injuries please.
Right Neal really made the big baskets when it copunt the most which was great to see, 20 points for an undrafted rookie in a rookie challenge game is impressive and of course Blair was always a beast! Go Spurs Go!
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