WEST 152, EAST 149, At Amway Center (Orlando, Fla.)
MVP: Kevin Durant
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.
But the West was able to save the victory 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.
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.
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.
All-Star Game rosters
Carmelo Anthony (New York Knicks)
LeBron James (Miami Heat)
Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls)
Dwyane Wade (Miami Heat)
Dwight Howard (Orlando Magic)
Chris Bosh (Miami Heat)
Luol Deng (Chicago Bulls)
Roy Hibbert (Indiana Pacers)
Andre Iguodala (Philadelphia 76ers)
Joe Johnson (Atlanta Hawks)
Paul Pierce (Boston Celtics)
Rajon Rondo (Boston Celtics)
Deron Williams (New Jersey Nets)
Coach: Tom Thibodeau (Chicago Bulls)
Kevin Durant (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Blake Griffin (L.A. Clippers)
Kobe Bryant (L.A. Lakers)
Chris Paul (L.A. Clippers)
Andrew Bynum (L.A. Lakers)
LaMarcus Aldridge (Portland Trail Blazers)
Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies)
Kevin Love (Minnesota Timberwolves)
Steve Nash (Phoenix Suns)
Dirk Nowitzki (Dallas Mavericks)
Tony Parker (San Antonio Spurs)
Russell Westbrook (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Coach: Scott Brooks (Oklahoma City Thunder)
All-Star Weekend Wrap
Slam Dunk Contest: Jeremy Evans, Utah Jazz
3-point Contest: Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Rising Stars Challenge: Team Chuck 146, Team Shaq 133
Rising Stars MVP: Kyrie Irving, Cleveland Cavaliers (34 points, 9 assists)