Bennedict Mathurin and Oscar Tshiebwe steal the show in Rising Stars Challenge

In the NBA Rising Stars Challenge, Indiana Pacers players Bennedict Mathurin and Oscar Tshiebwe stole the show.
Indiana Pacers, Oscar Tshiebwe, Bennedict Mathurin, All-Star
Indiana Pacers, Oscar Tshiebwe, Bennedict Mathurin, All-Star / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

The first day of All-Star Festivities is in the books, and the young Pacers have already made their presence known, those being Bennedict Mathurin and Oscar Tshiebwe. So far, two events have been played in the Celebrity Game and Rising Stars Challenge.

While obviously, no Pacers played in the celebrity game, there was plenty of representation in the second event of the night, as Mathurin was on team Jalen Rose, and Tshiebwe helped lead the way for Team Detlef Schrempf.

Before the event, there was some friendly banter between Mathurin and Tshiebwe, who were playing on opposing teams for one night only. For Tshiebwe, this was his first time with some national media spotlight since his time at Kentucky, not counting his free throw that directly led to the Bucks/Pacers game ball fiasco late last year.

For Mathurin, this would be the first time a lot of people would be seeing him since his comments on LeBron James following Draft Night 2022, comments which have placed an unfair label on him as the "LeBron guy," a label he looked to shed on Friday.

As the night kicked off, and the first matchup of Team Jalen vs Team Tamika Catchings got underway, Mathurin was introduced to his home Pacers fans as "a disruptive defender with ice in his veins" and received a rousing ovation from the Pacers faithful.

As the game started, Mathurin struggled, missing his first three shots and committing a sloppy turnover as Team Jalen got off to a 0-9 start, and it seemed as if he hadn't fully recovered from his illness and played like his inconsistent self. However, as the game went on, Mathurin began to pile up the points in all sorts of ways.

After hitting a flurry of inside shots for eight easy points, Mathurin sized up Jalen Duren and sank a three-pointer over the center before pointing to the bench and exclaiming, "It's your fault," an act that brought back memories of Tyrese Haliburton's late-game heroics against Cleveland earlier in the season.

Unfortunately, Mathurin's day would not all be sunshine and rainbows, as he lost the ball on a dunk attempt after blowing past Duren on an isolation, a move that would have Tyrese Haliburton, his father John, and Obi Toppin cracking up from the sidelines.

Shortly after, things began to heat up for Mathurin, as he started getting personal with Detroit's Jaden Ivey, who was selected with the 5th pick of the 2022 Draft, one pick before Mathurin at number six.

Clearly, with a chip on his shoulder, Mathurin exclaimed to Ivey that he could not guard him, even in the Rising Stars game, a statement that checks out after Mathurin's 30-point explosion against Detroit back in December.

Mathurin would continue the jabs at Ivey as the game went on, sizing him up and draining a tough three-pointer right in his face before ramping up the trash talk even more, which the commentators loved every minute of.

This is where the hilarity ensued. Sent to the free throw line with Team Jalen only needing two points to win the game at the target score of 40, Mathurin placed a $25K bet with Orlando Magic star Paolo Banchero that he would sink both free throws and win the game then and there.

Shortly after this bet was made, in a moment reminiscent of Grant Williams' "I'll make 'em both" blunder from last season, Mathurin missed both free throws, ensuring the game would continue and he would be $25K in the hole.

Despite the embarrassing yet hilarious moment and being $25K in the hole, Mathurin shook the dust off, went right back to work, and drained a tough, contested mid-range fadeaway to give Team Jalen the win at 40 points, hitting the Dougie right after in a fantastic sign of showmanship Pacers fans have been sorely missing from Mathurin this season.

Mathurin finished the first Rising Stars game with 18 points on 7/13 shooting and 2/4 from beyond the arc, as many points as the next three leading scorers on Team Jalen combined and the two top leading scorers on Team Tamika.

On to the next game and Oscar Tshiebwe's performance. While Team Detlef would pull off a surprising upset over Team Pau Gasol, Tsiebwe would mostly contribute on the glass, netting eight rebounds, including four offensive rebounds, to go along with two points in the first game.

Fortunately, this meant his night would not be over, and he would have plenty more time to showcase his skills, this time against his teammate Mathurin in the Rising Stars finals.

Unfortunately for Tshiebwe and company, the ensuing game against Mathurin and Team Jalen wasn't particularly close, as they would get an easy 26-13 win. This would not mean Tshiebwe did not have time to show his skills, however, as he displayed far more than just the rebounding prowess he showcased in the first game, scoring eight points on 4/5 shooting to lead his team along with grabbing two rebounds.

Two of these points just so happened to be a magnificent poster dunk on Utah's Walker Kessler, with Tshiebwe rising with his left hand and throwing it down over Utah's premier shot blocker.

This may not have been Tshiebwe's finest bucket of the night however, as shortly after, he would catch a drive-and-kick from Emoni Bates and connect with a layup over Dereck Lively after a flurry of spins and fakes, reminiscent of the post players of the 80s and 90s.

Despite scoring only four points on 1/3 shooting, Bennedict Mathurin would once again have the highlight of the night. In what is easily the most impressive pass of his NBA career, Mathurin pulled off a beautiful no-look 360 assist to Walker Kessler, showing a display of playmaking not yet seen during the regular season by him, which showed just how comfortable he was out there.

As mentioned before, despite Tshiebwe's eight points, Team Jalen won the contest and the Rising Stars Challenge in general after a 26-13 win. With that done, there was only one thing left to do: Crown Bennedict Mathurin as Rising Stars MVP, which they happily did, and his teammates were delighted to see, showering him with water and leaving him surprised.

In the post-game interview with the TNT crew, Mathurin stirred up some playful team beef with Tyrese Haliburton. When asked if his beautiful 360 assist was partially due to Haliburton testing him on commentary, Mathurin inexplicably stated he was a better passer than Tyrese, the current league leader in assists.

While this was obviously a playful jab at a teammate, Mathurin's comments on Haliburton showed just how comfortable he was on the big stage and how confident he was in his abilities even to say something like that on national TV, the first time he was personally given that spotlight in his career.

All in all, Mathurin finished the night with 22 points scored over the two games, shooting a combined 8/16 from the field. His 22 points accounted for 33% of Team Jalen's 66 total points on the night and most of their highlights as well.

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Unfortunately, this would not absolve him of his debt, as Banchero clearly still wants his $25K from the free throw bet. Here's hoping Mathurin can find his way out of this one.