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Kevin Durant and LeBron James scored a game-high 36 points apiece for their respective teams.
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Stars come through to finish 2012 All-Star game with a bang

By Steve Aschburner,

Posted Jan 31 2012 1:32PM - Updated Feb 27 2012 1:50AM

ORLANDO -- It began innocuously enough, Miami's LeBron James subbing back in with seven minutes left in what had been a typical NBA All-Star Game (electric in spurts, snoozy for stretches). The East team trailed by 15, much as it had by double digits all night, so it wasn't clear if Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau really was sending James in with legitimate comeback aspirations or maybe to run up mileage on the best player on the Bulls' biggest rival.

Eighty-five seconds later, though, the East had closed to within 138-130. Then to six with, hey, more than four minutes left. Three with three. Then one with a whole 1:44 to go, courtesy of Deron Williams' steal and layup on an East inbounds that made it 148-147.

Game freaking on. At that point, the unicorn of All-Star Games showed itself at Amway Center Sunday night: A robust, Madison Square Garden-worthy chant of "Dee-FENSE! Dee-FENSE!"

If it hadn't felt so right at that moment, it would have been cute, a crowd long on corporate sponsors and celebrities getting so lusty, so late. But real bsketball and serious intensity broke out in the nick of time, sending the West's 152-149 victory into the books with a deserving MVP (Kevin Durant), a frustrated James and the sense that this really had been a sports competition rather than a showy, channel-flipper's alternative to the Oscars.

"With all these great players on the floor, you never know what will happen," said Durant, who scored 34 of his 36 points in the first three quarters, helping the West build a fat lead that it never, not quite, lost. "Guys making big shots, and they cut it down to one. We were up 18 [21 actually]. ... It was fun. That's the type of All-Star Game you want to see. I'm glad I won. I'm glad I got MVP."

By the final minutes, that honor was going to be either/or: Either Durant if the West held on to win, or James if his spark off the bench late managed to get the East all the way back. Of course, with the drama squeezed into the final minutes of the fourth quarter -- let's repeat, the fourth quarter -- the scrutiny on James' performance and decisions at the end was extreme.

The Heat star did have the ball in his hands three times near the very end with a chance to win or tie -- and three times he passed it. The first went to Williams, the East within 151-149, but his 3-pointer from the wing clanged off with 8.9 seconds left. Williams got the rebound back to James, who tried to pass crosscourt right to left -- and had it plucked by the West's Blake Griffin. Kobe Bryant -- who scored 27 points to push his career All-Star total (271) past Michael Jordan (262) for No. 1 on the all-time list -- barked at James after that gaffe. The Miami star admitted he hesitated on the pass just an instant, resulting in the turnover.

Griffin was fouled with 1.1 seconds left and missed the first of two free throws. That left the East enough time to huddle and set up one last shot -- and James was the guy inbounding to Dwyane Wade in the left corner. Wade caught, fired -- and missed -- in one motion to let the West off the hook.

"Being a competitor, no matter All-Star Game or not, you don't want to get blown out," said James, who matched Durant's 36 points. "I just wanted to try to pick it up and see if we could make a run at it, and we did."

Thibodeau let the clock run on the rebound of Williams' miss, saying he felt confidence in James -- a free agent he tried hard to land in July 2010. "He made a lot of big plays. He made big shots, great reads," Thibodeau said. "You have a scramble situation and an open floor, and you have a very dynamic scorer and a guy with great vision and good decision-making. You can call a timeout and it allows the defense to get set, or you can trust his ability to make a play."

Durant had 21 points by halftime as the West set an All-Star record with its 88 first-half points. The teams' 157 to that point also was a record, and the 301 combined points by the end fell two shy of the mark set (in overtime) in 1987. The East's 14 field goals from beyond the arc was another record.

Wade finished with a triple-double (24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists), becoming the third player to post one in an All-Star Game -- and the third to not win the MVP for his effort (like Michael Jordan in 1997 and James last year). Wade also bumped up the intensity Sunday early in the third quarter with a hard foul on Bryant, bloodying the Lakers star's nose. Considering how quiet the arena had gotten by that point, the move -- harder by half than All-Star standards -- set up the scrambling and urgency that was a quarter away.

Wade admitted that he fouled Bryant thinking about two less-physical fouls Bryant had put on him. "I obviously didn't try to draw no blood," he said. "I'm glad everything was cool and we got back to being competitive and having fun."

Some more than others. Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard scored only five points until late in the third quarter and ended with nine points, 10 rebounds, one block and a head-scratching four 3-pointers, all misses. (He is 1-for-33 in his career, plus 1-for-10 now in All-Star Games; even allowing for end-of-quarter heaves, that's not good.)

Howard's season has been largely joyless as the trade rumors and speculation about his looming free agency have weighed on him and the Orlando team. Big men are dependent on getting fed the ball, so All-Star games can be tricky, but Howard's shot at the MVP -- a mini-tradition in these things -- was gone early and the big event from him was, well, uneventful.

"The weekend for me was a lot of work, but I did have a lot of fun," Howard said. It just didn't show up in the boxscore, then.

Fortunately six or seven minutes of serious star-powered play did.


2011 (Los Angeles) Kobe wins MVP as West holds off East in All-Star Game
Nothing was going to stop Kobe Bryant from a victory in this All-Star game, not on his home floor. Shining brightest again among the stars, Bryant scored 37 points and tied a record with his fourth MVP award in the Western Conference's 148-143 victory over the East in the 2011 NBA All-Star Game.

2010 (Dallas): Wade takes MVP honors before largest basketball crowd in history
Everything's not just bigger in Texas -- it's gigantic, colossal, and don't forget -- humongous. The NBA All-Star Game came to the Lone Star State and a basketball nation broke out as a world-record crowd of 108,713 filled up the futuristic edifice that is Cowboys Stadium to see the East squeeze out a 141-139 win over the West.

2009 (Phoenix): Back together, Shaq and Kobe share MVP honors
Teammates for three championships with the Lakers at the beginning of the decade, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal teamed up once more to lead the Western Conference over the East 146-119. Bryant led all scorers with 27 points while Shaq added 17.

2008 (New Orleans): LeBron's MVP performance leads East to win
LeBron James earned MVP honors and nearly missed a triple-double (27 points, eight rebounds, nine assists) as the Eastern Conference downed the West 134-128.

2007 (Las Vegas): Kobe's 31 points gives West victory in Vegas
Kobe Bryant lit up the Las Vegas strip with 31 points to earn the MVP as the West romped past the East 153-132 at the first-ever All-Star game held outside an NBA city.

More All-Star History >>
All-Star game results & MVPs (1951-2011) >>

NBA All-Star Game Results

Click on the All-Star game results below for complete All-Star rosters, coaches, game recaps and weekend event winners for every year.

Year Result MVP Location
2012 West 152, East 149 Kevin Durant Orlando, Fla.
2011 West 148, East 143 Kobe Bryant Los Angeles, Calif.
2010 East 141, West 139 Dwyane Wade Arlington, Texas
2009 West 146, East 119 Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O'Neal Phoenix, Ariz.
2008 East 134, West 128 LeBron James New Orleans, La.
2007 West 153, East 132 Kobe Bryant Las Vegas, Nev.
2006 East 122, West 120 LeBron James Houston, Texas
2005 East 125, West 115 Allen Iverson Denver, Colo.
2004 West 136, East 132 Shaquille O'Neal Los Angeles, Calif.
2003 West 155, East 145 (2OT) Kevin Garnett Atlanta, Ga.
2002 West 135, East 120 Kobe Bryant Philadelphia, Pa.
2001 East 111, West 110 Allen Iverson Washington, D.C.
2000 West 137, East 126 Tim Duncan, Shaquille O'Neal Oakland, Calif.
1998 East 135, West 114 Michael Jordan New York, N.Y.
1997 East 132, West 120 Glen Rice Cleveland, Ohio
1996 East 129, West 118 Michael Jordan San Antonio, Texas
1995 West 139, East 112 Mitch Richmond Phoenix, Ariz.
1994 East 127, West 118 Scottie Pippen Minneapolis, Minn.
1993 West 135, East 132 (OT) Karl Malone, John Stockton Salt Lake City, Utah
1992 West 153, East 113 Magic Johnson Orlando, Fla.
1991 East 116, West 114 Charles Barkley Charlotte, N.C.
1990 East 130, West 113 Magic Johnson Miami, Fla.
1989 West 143, East 134 Karl Malone Houston, Texas
1988 East 138, West 133 Michael Jordan Chicago, Ill.
1987 West 154, East 149 (OT) Tom Chambers Seattle, Wash.
1986 East 139, West 132 Isiah Thomas Dallas, Texas
1985 West 140, East 129 Ralph Sampson Indianapolis, Ind.
1984 East 154, West 145 (OT) Isiah Thomas Denver, Colo.
1983 East 132, West 123 Julius Erving Inglewood, Calif.
1982 East 120, West 118 Larry Bird East Rutherford, N.J.
1981 East 123, West 120 Tiny Archibald Richfield, Ohio
1980 East 144, West 136 (OT) George Gervin Landover, Md.
1979 West 134, East 129 David Thompson Detroit, Mich.
1978 East 133, West 125 Randy Smith Atlanta, Ga.
1977 West 125, East 124 Julius Erving Milwaukee, Wisc.
1976 East 123, West 109 Dave Bing Philadelphia, Pa.
1975 East 108, West 102 Walt Frazier Phoenix, Ariz.
1974 West 134, East 123 Bob Lanier San Antonio, Texas
1973 East 104, West 84 Dave Cowens Chicago, Ill.
1972 West 112, East 110 Jerry West Inglewood, Calif.
1971 West 108, East 107 Lenny Wilkens San Diego, Calif.
1970 East 142, West 135 Willis Reed Philadelphia, Pa.
1969 East 123, West 112 Oscar Robertson Baltimore, Md.
1968 East 144, West 124 Hal Greer New York, N.Y.
1967 West 135, East 120 Rick Barry San Francisco, Calif.
1966 East 137, West 94 Adrian Smith Cincinnati, Ohio
1965 East 124, West 123 Jerry Lucas St. Louis, Mo.
1964 East 111, West 107 Oscar Robertson Boston, Mass.
1963 East 115, West 108 Bill Russell Los Angeles, Calif.
1962 West 150, East 130 Bob Pettit St. Louis, Mo.
1961 West 153, East 131 Oscar Robertson Syracuse, N.Y.
1960 East 125, West 115 Wilt Chamberlain Philadelphia, Pa.
1959 West 124, East 108 Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit Detroit, Mich.
1958 East 130, West 118 Bob Pettit St. Louis, Mo.
1957 East 109, West 97 Bob Cousy Boston, Mass.
1956 West 108, East 94 Bob Pettit Rochester, N.Y.
1955 East 100, West 91 Bill Sharman New York, N.Y.
1954 East 98, West 93 (OT) Bob Cousy New York, N.Y.
1953 West 79, East 75 George Mikan Ft. Wayne, Ind.
1952 East 108, West 91 Paul Arizin Boston, Mass.
1951 East 111, West 94 Ed Macauley Boston, Mass.

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