Final, West 143-138: This All-Star game was not without its exciting moments. The fourth quarter alone brought us Kobe Bryant stuffing a jump shot by LeBron James to start a fast break and Blake Griffin tossing an alley-oop to himself off the backboard. If fans came to Houston or tuned in looking for highlight-reel plays, they did not come away disappointed.
Kevin Durant became the first player in NBA history with 30 or more points in three straight All-Star games, totaling 30 in 31 minutes. Chris Paul took home Most Valuable Player honors after he racked up 20 points, 15 assists and four steals as the West won for the fourth time in five meetings.
The big winner may have been Kyrie Irving, who showed that he belongs among the best with 15 points. East coach Erik Spoelstra even left the Cleveland point guard on the floor late with James and Carmelo Anthony, showing how much he respects the second-year guard.
The big loser might have been Chris Bosh. The Miami Heat forward shot only 3-for-9 from the field while committing three fouls and three turnovers, and he was repeatedly on the wrong side of highlights by guys like Paul, Irving and Kobe Bryant.
Celtics center Kevin Garnett played just six minutes, going scoreless in his 15th All-Star game.
Fourth quarter, 5:59, West 123-120: Here come the real stars. Durant, Anthony and Irving — yes, Irving — took the court along with most of the first-billed guys to play out the stretch. Irving in particular is showing that belongs here. He drained threes on back-to-back possessions to help the East pull back within one possession, making a case for himself as a top-five point guard.
Durant and Paul are still the elites among the elites, however, which is why the West still leads. Durant has a game-high 26 points and Paul is working on a double-double of 11 points and 14 assists with four steals.
Fourth quarter, 8:42, West 119-111: Brook Lopez is very confused.
In a close game in the fourth quarter, both teams are ready to play for real. Suddenly the players were rotating on defense and making bounce passes like it was a real game. Neither side really cares who wins, but neither one wants to walk out a loser, either.
But Lopez must not have gotten the memo. The Nets center fired away a straight-on 3-pointer, a la Howard or Duncan, only Howard and Duncan took their treys early when it did not necessarily hurt the team. Lopez’s shot set the East farther back right when they should be making their push.
Somebody explain this to Lopez, or better yet, take him out of the game and replace him with somebody who knows what is going on.
End of third quarter, West 108-104: Ah, the good old end-of-third-quarter bench-clear at the All-Star game. With the score tight and the fourth quarter looking like it might actually matter, both squads flushed the court with those second-tier stars who are really, really good but who might not be familiar to the everyday fan.
So Zach Randolph, David Lee, Paul George and Jrue Holiday played out the final minutes of the third quarter and kept it close, which is just how everybody wanted things to work out. Those four guys are excellent players, of course, as were the other guys on the court — guys like Tony Parker and James Harden have played like MVP candidates at times this season — but everyone knows that fans want to see guys like James, Anthony and Durant down the stretch. This was a chance to give those superstars a blow while giving a few other guys a chance to say they participated in an All-Star game.
Third quarter, 5:56, West 90-89: If Howard’s shoulder really is hurting him, he has a funny way of showing it. The Lakers big man was practicing halfcourt hook shots between halves, and he stepped back from his second long-range shot of the game early in the third quarter.
Howard’s attempt fell through the net and he was given three points, although it appeared his foot was on the line. (His earlier attempt, which was also meant to be a three, also became a two when his big foot crossed the arc.)
Oh, well. Maybe the pain in Howard’s shoulder took time off during the All-Star break.
Halftime, West 69-65: This game was made for a guy like Griffin. He might not have the most complete game, but the dude can catch a lob and throw it down with the best of them, and he is making ample use of those skills so far.
Griffin joins Durant in double figures as the teams take an extended break for halftime. Griffin has 12 points, all of them off lobs or pinpoint passes at the rim, to the delight of the crowd.
Chris Bosh’s night is not going so well. The guy who replaced Rondo in the starting lineup is 2-for-7 from the field with two fouls and two turnovers, but that is not the worst of it. He has been the victims of a between-the-legs dribble — twice — with Paul embarrassing him the most. Bosh’s response was to try dribbling between his own legs before throwing up an airball. Groan.
The East has three guys in double figures, led by Wade with 12 points.
Second quarter, 5:46, game tied 50-50: Quietly, with James off the court, Durant is just dominating.
The best player in the Western Conference has 14 points to lead all scorers, although he did let down Griffin. The Clippers forward stepped aside to let Durant grab an offensive rebound, but when Durant simply laid the ball in, Griffin said something that made Durant laugh.
We can only assume Griffin said, “I gave you that rebound because I figured you were going to dunk it, and you only took a layup? Boooooooooo.”
Second quarter, 7:39, West 42-41: George is not getting cheated in his first All-Star game. The Pacers forward has taken six quick shots and piled up six points in just eight minutes of action, proving to the world that his is more than just a high-flying dunker and defensive stopper.
Another first-timer, Sixers point guard Jrue Holiday, slipped into the lane on the break and flushed home a left-handed dunk to bring the East bench to its feet. Each team has a former UCLA point man (Westbrook is the West’s) chipping in a highlight for the good people of Houston.
End of first quarter, West 31-26: Russell Westbrook was made for games like this. The electrifying point guard for Oklahoma City is off to a hot start with six points in four minutes of action. He caught an alley-oop from former teammate James Harden and tomahawked the ball through the hoop.
On the East side, Kyrie Irving looks right at home in his first ASG. The second-year guard missed two of his first three shots, but “Uncle Drew” is showing off his handle and nifty passing to the delight of the fans.
First quarter, 5:34, West 20-16: Give Garnett credit for trying. In a defense-optional exhibition, the Celtics big man is calling out screens and communicating on defense like always.
Still, Garnett knows the deal. He stepped aside whenever Griffin or another West player came barreling down the lane, and on offense he has mostly deferred to James and Anthony. Garnett knows nobody came to see him can automatic 20-footers. Kevin Durant threw down a swinging reverse dunk on the break to give the fans what they want.
Still, this game is closer early on than a lot of its predecessors. What tends to happen is that everybody treats this like a scrimmage for three quarters, then suddenly get serious if it is close in the fourth quarter.
First quarter, 10:46, West 4-0: The game begins (finally) as it often begins whenever Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are on the court: with a dish from the former to the latter for a dunk.
The Clippers teammates made it twice the fun to get the West, which is far behind in the all-time series but has won three of the last four All-Star games, off the a quick start.
8:33 p.m.: More than a half-hour into the proceedings, they still have not even finished the player intros yet. At least, they are sort of like player intros. As far as anybody can tell, it’s a Ne-Yo concert with guys in flashy warm-up suits.
In a nice touch, the NBA has added patches of each player’s accomplishments — past All-Star games, championships, league awards, etc. — to the left side of their jackets. Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant’s jackets are particularly busy, but nothing compared to what Bill Russell’s would look like. The 11-time champ and five-time MVP, who is attending the game, would probably need two jackets to fit all his honors.
8:04 p.m.: Do not expect a ton of defense, but if anybody makes an impact in the non-offensive areas of the stat sheet, look out for Chris Paul and Tyson Chandler. The league’s most skilled ball thief and the league’s best defensive big man (sorry, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett) could be among the few guys as focused on racking up steals and blocks, respectively, as dunks and 3-pointers.
Keep an eye on the first-timers, too. Guys like Jrue Holiday and Joakim Noah have not been to an All-Star game before, so they will not be subject to the boredom some repeat honorees are. The rest of the first-time selections are Chandler, Paul George, Kyrie Irving, James Harden and Brook Lopez, who replaces the injured Rondo on the East roster.
7:33 p.m.: Hey, somebody I recognize. Diddy is on stage, and he predicts that James will win the game’s MVP award. Way to go out on a limb, Mr. Combs.
For something actually basketball-related, the projected starters appear below.
7:25 p.m.: Terrence Jenkins, who apparently is famous, is really pumped up about Ke$ha performing before this game. If you don’t know who Ke$ha is, she seems to be a little like Lady Gaga but with more backup dancers wearing tiger masks.
So, let’s rock. Or maybe rap? Or dance? I have no idea what genre of music Ke$ha is supposed to belong to.
8 a.m. ET: LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and the rest of basketball’s brightest stars are set to share the court in Houston. The NBA All-Star Game tips off Sunday with leaguewide bragging rights on the line.
James Harden of the host Rockets may have trouble cracking his team’s rotation for once. The Western Conference squad is the deeper of the two, but the East will have a very unconventional starting lineup.
Erik Spoelstra chose Chris Bosh to replace the injured Rajon Rondo. That makes Dwyane Wade the only true guard in the starting five, but James’ presence should help even things out.
Join us for updates and analysis during the game, which tips off at 8 p.m. ET.