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All-Star Game: The next tweaks NBA should make to format after rousing success of 2020

NBA, All-Star Game

The initially-maligned changes to the NBA All-Star game proved to be an objective success (credit Chris Paul with another assist). After two quarters of sloppy scrimmaging, the game’s second half was compelling, intense and thrilling — particularly the commercial-free final 15 minutes.

Team LeBron prevailed over Team Giannis, 157-155, capping off an entertaining and emotional weekend in Chicago. Much to Adam Silver’s delight, the best All Star game in years pulled huge ratings as the NBA works to combat the narrative that lower ratings are a problem.

We’ll see if the effort in future All-Star games matches this one as the novelty of the new format wears off. For this weekend, though, it had the best players in the league competing like a playoff gam (and James Harden shook in a big moment like a playoff game). Most importantly, the stars approve.

The NBA will surely consider any tweaks to reproduce the level of competitiveness on display in Chicago — at least in crunch time. With that said, we have a few ideas that the league should take a look at.

You can’t win on a free throw (also: win by two)

The game’s ending may not have been as controversial as the dunk contest (possibly in need of its own changes), but no one likes a game ending at the charity stripe.

One of the most fun aspects of the “Elam Ending” was the pick-up feel, and watching the world’s best play serious pick-up is about the most entertaining basketball imaginable. Of course, in pick-up, games do not end at the free throw line.

The NBA should: a.) switch to a win-by-two finish; and b.) not allow the game to be decided on a free throw. Maybe any personal fouls when a team has game point can result in a retain of possession and the losing team can be assessed a point-penalty for each foul committed.

Increase the target score

It was a nice gesture to honor Kobe Bryant by adding 24 to the leading cumulative score of the first three quarters, but in the future, the league should settle on a higher (and maybe round) number to determine the target score.

The field goal percentage dipped once everybody started trying on defense — resulting in basically a 15-minute fourth period — and the sudden spike in intensity seemed to legitimately rattle the players (and coaches and refs) in a fascinating way. Still, points aren’t that hard come to by in the All-Star game, and of course, we selfishly didn’t want it to end.

We’d like to see the added point number increased to 30 or 40, and the coaches can strategically use their subs, unlike Sunday.

Add One roster spot

This isn’t a change to the scoring format, but it seems like a natural improvement considering the increased intensity brought on by the new rules. As long as NBA game-day rosters feature 13 active players, they might as well add one spot to the All Star teams.

The extra sub could be especially useful if the new format is going to ask the players to break a real sweat.

Incorporate a free throw penalty for the fourth quarter

Ideally, the per quarter incentives and the importance of the cumulative total should keep the score close through three periods, but in the case that doesn’t happen, there should be some kind of fourth-quarter scoring rules that makes a big comeback more feasible.

Maybe fourth quarter missed free throws could cost five points. (For the record: we are not in favor of something like a 4-point shot. We want the All Star game to resemble a hybrid of pick-up and NBA basketball, and 4-point shots are not a part of either.)

Whatever the league comes up with, kudos to everyone involved for fixing the All Star Game … for now.