Feb 14, 2014, 11:56 PM EST
NEW ORLEANS – Andre Drummond finished with 30 points and 25 rebounds in his team’s 142-136 win in Friday night’s Rising Stars Challenge, a performance which earned him the game’s MVP trophy.
The two guards began going at each other in the first half and then continued it on through the second, matching one another with shots that increased in both difficulty and range. Waiters finished with 31 points, while Hardaway ended up with a game-high of 36.
Drummond was dominant, however, and deserving of the game’s Most Valuable honor. His 25 rebounds were just three fewer than the entire opposing team amassed, and the fact that he missed last year’s event as a rookie had more than a little to do with the energy he put forth in this one.
“Missing the game last year was tough for me,” Drummond said. “I hated watching every second of it. It was tough I couldn’t be out there. It was my mindset to come out and play with energy like I had been all year. I had my mindset to win the MVP and win the game, and I went out and did it.”
Drummond started off the game with a ridiculous 16 points and 10 rebounds in under 10 minutes of action, fighting for inside position and scoring repeatedly on putbacks after hauling down offensive rebounds. When he did get the ball in the post, he attacked aggressively with spin moves before going up for strong finishes.
The hot start was almost for nothing the way Waiters and Hardaway stole the show, but Drummond didn’t mind having a front row seat.
“It was just like last year with Brandon Knight and Kyrie Irving,” he said. “There’s always going to be two guys that just decide to go after each other, and it was an excellent battle. Last year, it was attacking the cup, but this year it was back-to-back threes, nonstop. I got to sit and watch for a couple of minutes, but it was very interesting to see that.”
Putting in a monster performance against other stars in their first or second seasons was satisfying for Drummond, and may have provided a little motivation for him to continue to work on his game until he’s invited to the main event on All-Star Sunday.
“I had the mindset this year of coming out here and playing with energy to show the league that I could play in Sunday’s game,” Drummond said. “And that I’m able to hang with the big guys.”
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