LOS ANGELES, United States, Feb 19 – Team LeBron upstaged Team Stephen 148-145 in the NBA All-Star Game Sunday in a thrilling duel that featured spectacular plays at both ends of the court by the game’s premier players.
Playing-captain LeBron James finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists to lead all scorers in front of a sold out crowd of 17,800 at Staples Center arena.
“It was a great weekend and we capped it off the right way,” said Cleveland Cavaliers James, who was also named MVP of the game for the third time in his career.
Team LeBron staged a second-half rally and then got the defensive stops they needed in the fourth quarter to win the mid-February classic after trailing by two points at the half.
This year the league decided to go to a new selection format for picking the teams to try and make the game more competitive and it worked.
“We wanted to change the narrative of the all-star game being a joke,” said Team LeBron’s Kevin Durant, who was MVP of the 2014 all-star game. “We wanted to make it a real basketball game.
“Everybody just falls in line when the game tells you to.”
Last year in New Orleans, the Western Conference outgunned the East 192-182 in a game that lacked intensity and especially the clutch defensive plays that brought the Staples Center crowd to its feet on Sunday.
Under the new format, James and Stephen Curry, the top two all-star vote-getters, got to pick their teams from a pool of 22 available players. The first four picks had to come from the list of all-star starters.
“You got to give credit to the new format,” said Team Stephen’s DeMar DeRozan. “You are playing with guys you normally play against twice a year. That changed it up and gave it a new-found energy.”
Golden State Warriors star Durant tallied 19 points and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Paul George delivered 16 points for Team LeBron.
Four-time all-star DeRozan, of the Toronto Raptors, and Portland Trail Blazers Damian Lillard each scored 21 points while Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds for Team Stephen.
The 33-year-old James, who was playing in his 14th all-star game, scored the eventual winning basket on a finger roll layup with 34 seconds left in the fourth to make if 146-145.
James said the initial plan was to get the ball to Russell Westbrook and let him drive to the basket.
– ‘Play the right way’ –
“Sometimes you have to improvise when it breaks down,” James said. “We were able to do that. That’s the beauty of being on the floor with a bunch of all-stars.
“It doesn’t always work out but when you have guys with high basketball IQs, and guys that play the game the right way, it works out for the best.”
After James Harden missed a three-point attempt for Team Stephen, James was able to feed Westbrook for a running layup with 10 seconds left to seal the victory.
Curry was guarded closely by his Golden State teammate Durant and James so he passed off to DeRozan who missed on a long attempt from the right corner as the buzzer sounded to end the game.
“Once I got the ball and turned and looked to get a shot, I saw LeBron and K.D. try to double team me,” Curry said.
“I was just trying to make a play and nothing surfaced.”
Durant said he is going to enjoy having bragging rights over two-time NBA MVP Curry when they see each other later this week at practice.
“We just wanted to get a stop at the end of the game,” Durant said. “Everybody knows how deadly Steph is around the three point line, especially me. So I just tried to get a hand up and make him pass.
“For sure that was a great defensive play by myself. I’m patting myself on the back.”