Trevor Denton | Daily TrojanIn many ways, the NBA All-Star Weekend was a smash hit in Los Angeles.The celebrity game on Friday featured a surprisingly stellar debut from Migos’ Quavo (19 points and the MVP award). Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker shone in the 3-point contest, out-dueling Golden State Warriors sharp-shooter Klay Thompson with a record 28 points. On Saturday, the Slam Dunk Contest provided its typical blend of adrenaline and showmanship, with little actual sport. The Dunk Contest was an excellent showcase of the NBA’s youngest and brightest. Utah Jazz rookie Donavon Mitchell narrowly beat out the Cleveland Cavaliers Larry Nance Jr. and fellow first-year player Dennis Smith Jr. to win the crown. Indiana Pacer guard Victor Oladipo was never truly in the contest, but even he provided a gif-worthy moment, when he completed a dunk wearing a mask from the movie Black Panther mask handed out by lead actor Chadwick Boseman at courtside — nothing wrong with a little tasteful cross-promotion. But those were the givens. The celebrity game, 3-point contest and dunk contest are always fun spectacles worthy of viewers’ time. It’s the actual All-Star Game that has developed a reputation for being a bit of snooze-fest. In the past, there’s usually been no defense, no seriousness and worst of all, no real incentive to win the damn game. The NBA, being the NBA and not the NFL, recognized this problem and made a change. Instead of deploying the usual Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference format, league commissioner Adam Silver decided to have two captains who received the highest number of fan All-Star votes pick teams comprised of All-Stars and play for charities of their choosing. This year, the new format pitted the Cavaliers’ LeBron James against the Warriors’ Stephen Curry and it turned out to be the best game of its type in recent memory. Ultimately, Team LeBron emerged victorious in a 148-145 barn-burner that ended in the most unexpected manner imaginable: a defensive stop. It was the lowest total score in an All-Star Game since 2013. In a few moments, it even felt like a real NBA game with actual stakes. “Us players, we talked about this, and we changed the landscape of how the All-Star game was drafted and all of that,” James told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne after the win. “It was up to us to go out and put the finishing product on the game and we were able to do that.”James, who won his third career All-Star MVP award for his 29-point, 10-rebound performance, is right. He and Curry made a concerted effort to bring back competitiveness to the All-Star Game and it worked tremendously. But what happens beyond this year, if other captains are elected and the league can’t rely on those two mega-stars to keep the game afloat? The All-Star Game still requires more tangible stakes in order to stay relevant. The MLB tried to make its version more interesting by giving home-field advantage in the World Series to the winning league, but the practice was discontinued in 2017 because the stakes were actually too high for an exhibition game.In the future, the NBA needs to find a middle-ground for its All-Star Game. I suggest letting the winning captain return in that role next year, allowing him to pick another squad. This way, there’s some continuity from year to year. It’s fun watching James and Curry chase NBA Finals rings, and it’d also be fun to watch them try to create a dynasty in the All-Star Game. This can be made even more interesting by making it so losing captains are disallowed from returning to the role for good, or at least five years. It may seem a bit harsh, but they’d still be able to participate in the game going forward and most players probably don’t care about captaining anyway. By using this format, the All-Star Game could utilize what makes pickup basketball so competitive — winner stays and loser has to wait in line. In the NHL All-Star Game, the league used a similar captain vs. captain model as the NBA did this year, but it was short-lived because of a lack of stars outside of the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin and Pittsburgh Penguins’ Sidney Crosby. The NBA possesses more stars than its hockey counterpart, but it still requires more stipulations to make its All-Star Weekend a long-lasting, must-watch event. By using the winner-stays model, the All-Star Game can invoke all the intensity of pickup basketball and keep the game watchable for years to come. Trevor Denton is a sophomore majoring in broadcast and digital journalism. He is also the sports editor of the Daily Trojan. His column, “T-Time,” runs Wednesdays.
Stat that mattersAuburn is 7-1 against the spread as a home underdog under Gus Malzhan. That should at least make Georgia fans nervous. The Tigers are going to pull out all the stops here, so expect Malzahn to break tendencies on both sides of the ball to try to mix up Georgia.Auburn vs. Georgia predictionAuburn takes the early lead, perhaps on a trick play, and the defense gives Fromm problems in the first half. The Tigers, however, cannot capitalize on that early momentum and it’s a one-score game at home. Georgia stays patient in the running game, and D’Andre Swift — who had 25 carries for 86 yards against Florida — comes up with a few big runs in the third quarter. Georgia holds on in the fourth quarter to keep those Playoff hopes alive.Auburn vs. Georgia scoreGeorgia 30, Auburn 23 WEEK 12 PICKS: Straight up | Against the spreadAuburn, it’s worth mentioning, can still get to a New Year’s Day 6 bowl; this is its third matchup against a top-10 team this season. It’s the first one at home, however, and could set the tone for the Iron Bowl on Nov. 30.The Bulldogs and Tigers have a lot on the line here. With that in mind, here’s everything you need for Saturday’s matchup:Georgia vs. Auburn oddsSpread: Georgia -2.5Point total: 44Moneyline: Auburn-110, Georgia-110Georgia is a 2.5-point favorite, according to odds at Sportsbook Review, and 56 percent of the wagering has come in favor of the Bulldogs.MORE: Get the latest NCAAF odds and trends at Sportsbook ReviewAuburn vs. Georgia all-time seriesGeorgia leads the all-time series 59-56-8 and has won the last two meetings. Auburn won the last meeting at Jordan-Hare Stadium, 40-17, in 2017.Three trends to know— The Tigers are 14-7 against Georgia when both teams are ranked in the AP Top 25, but the Bulldogs have won two of the last three regular-season meetings in that situation.— The Tigers are 7-2 against the spread this season, including a 2-0 against-the-spread mark as an underdog. Those games were on the road.—Georgia is 9-4 against the spread as a road favorite under fourth-year coach Kirby Smart. The Bulldogs have been favored in every game this season and are 5-3 against the spread.WEEK 12 PROJECTIONS: Bowls | PlayoffThree things to watchThe running gameAuburn (219.3 ypg) and Georgia (215.9) are both excellent on the ground, and the team that wins the battle could run away with this game. On defense, however, the Bulldogs have been better at 74.6 yards per game (fourth in the FBS). That’s nasty, and if it travels that would put Auburn freshman quarterback Bo Nix behind the chains. There is more pressure on the Tigers to get a running game started.A better Bo NixIn the losses to LSU and Florida, Nix was 26 of 62 (41.2 percent) for an average of 146 yards per game with two touchdowns and four interceptions. If that happens again, then Georgia will cruise to victory. Nix’s numbers are better across the board at home, and he averages 5.0 yards per carry. Perhaps Auburn uses more designed quarterback runs early to loosen up the passing game.What did Fromm learn?The last trip to Jordan-Hare Stadium was a nightmare on all fronts for Jake Fromm, who was sacked four times and managed a 13 of 28 passing day for 184 yards and a touchdown. Georgia had 32 carries for 46 yards in a game dominated by the Tigers’ defensive front. Georgia has won the last two meetings since, but this was on the road. No. 5 Georgia (8-1) travels to No. 13 Auburn (7-2) in the marquee SEC game of the week at Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday. The game will be televised at 3:30 p.m. on CBS.The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry has SEC and College Football Playoff implications for the second straight season. Georgia can clinch a spot in the SEC championship game with a victory, and Auburn can knock the Bulldogs out of Playoff contention once and for all with a win.