Luol Deng made his NBA All Star Game debut in Orlando but it was Kevin Durant and LeBron James who stole the show in different ways at the Amway Center in a thriller, won 152-149 by the West.
Oklahoma City forward Durant was named as the Most Valuable Player of the high-scoring game after firing 36 points. But the West, who led 90-69 at the outset of the third quarter, had to cling on in the final minute after their lead was cut to one before Miami Heat superstar LeBron James committed a critical turnover.
“As a kid you dream of playing in an All Star Game but to be MVP is another level,” said Durant.
“I keep saying it but I’m excited I got it and I’m glad I get to celebrate this with my family and my team-mates.”
Deng hinted at asking for a trade after playing only 5:51. “I was disappointed with the minutes I got,” he said. Just kidding. The Great Britain international confirmed that he was held out as a precaution after falling on his wrist in the first quarter. And it didn’t take the shine off the occasion.
“It’s a great honour to be here,” he said. “I’m glad I had the chance to do it. There’s a lot I’m going to take from it. And I enjoyed myself. It’s as much for my friends and my family to be around it.”
With the Bulls title run ahead, better safe than sorry.
“Going in we had talked about not playing a lot of minutes,”said East coach Tom Thibodeau. “We wanted to limit what Derrick (Rose) was doing and also Luol. Some guys wanted to play less so that’s what we did.”
Here’s how it all unfolded. Stats
Final. East 149-152 West Blake Griffin goes to the line and make 1/2. East must make a three out of a time out. Wade shoots. He misses.
2 seconds left. LeBron turns the ball over! Another entry in his legend of last game non-heroics. Seconds earlier, Deron Williams had airballed. Did we say choke?
22.8 seconds left. West possession. They lead 150-149 after Carmelo Anthony had attempted a three to level. Lin would have made it, you feel. D-Wade has only the third triple-double in ASG history, 24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds.
1:21 147-148. And Wade misses an opportunity to put the East ahead. Curse of the Heatbino.
Luol has still not played since the first quarter. He remains the joint-lowest British scorer in NBA All Star Game history.
2:22 142-146 Big surge has made it interesting. Durant has 36. So does LeBron. Who needs Lin?
6:00 128-138 Deron Williams takes it to the basket. Being here no consolation for missing out on playing in last weekend’s Turkish Cup final for Besiktas.
7:55 121-138 If this were a real game, Thibs would have combusted by now. Talking of Bulls, Derrick Rose signed a reported £150 million, 14-year, shoe deal extension with adidas this week. That’s a lot of laces.
Common is courtside. One of my all-time personal favourites.
End East 112-124 West. It’s all to play for. Durant has 34, just 8 shy of Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time All Star Game record. Team scoring record is 155 in a game.
2:39 105-118 Durant has 32, LeBron 26. Luol has only played less than 6 minutes and has 1 assist. I fear that All Star MVP Award isn’t coming this year.
Members of the 1992 Dream Team being introduced on court. Spoke to Clyde Drexler earlier. He’s coming to Manchester next month and wants good weather. Did warn him that’s fairly unlikely.David Robinson still looks in good enough shape to start here. Plug for GB v USA on the big screen. Tickets on sale next month.
5:57 95-104 The Orlando Magic have a cheerleading troup of old people called the Silver Stars. Which must hurt if you’re a WNBA player in San Antonio and they reckons it’s you.
Kobe Bryant is now the all-time leading scorer in All-Star Game history, passing MJ. That was clearly one of his goals coming into this season.
With the Oscars going on, there’s not much A-List talent courtside. They just pumped up someone called Drake. That’s sort of Susan Boyle level.
7:14 91-102 Dwight cuts the gap to 11. He’s no longer wearing orange shoes (in honour of Orange County – which is where we are). The Amway Center is impressive but I kind of miss the O-Rena, which is where I saw my first ever NBA Game. And Ben Wallace fell on top of me. Good times.
9:54 East 77-96 West Dwight Howard gets whistled for a foul. That’ll teach him to play D. East clearly going to start full court trapping defence. D-Wade pulls an unusually hard foul on Kobe. Bloody nose. Two FTs equal Jordan’s record of 262 All Star points.
Marc Gasol starts the second half in place of Bynum. No sign of Pau.
Hall of Famer Sam Smith tells us that Kobe, with 14 1st half points, needs 5 to pass Jordan as leading scorer in All Star game history. That’s Michael, not Katie Price.
“International music sensation” Pitbull is your half-time entertainment. He’s big in the USA AND the Cayman Islands. Ne-Yo pretty good though.
End East 69-88 West. Kevin Durant has a game-high 21 to lead the West. D-Wade has 14 for the East. So far, the game itself is pointless, even though 88 is an All Star record for a single half.
I spoke to Chris Mullin earlier today. He reckons the USA team that comes to London this summer will be the best team ever.
The NBA confirm Luol Deng opted for flag of Africa to be displayed in his honour before the game over the British one.
2:00 60-78 Spike Lee in the house. He looks a little bored. But not as much as one of the Chinese journalists two rows behind me. He’s fast asleep. Can’t be sure whether it’s down to jet lag to just an extreme apathy to this game. There have been times in here when you could hear a pin drop. In Miami.
For East coach Tom Thibodeau, for whom defence is paramount, this must really hurt. You know he wants to send Deng out to do a lock-up job on Durant.
5:28 52-63 Some shoe info from adidas.
- Dwight’s bright orange shoe – the Howard 2 – features a signature shattered glass graphic throughout the shoe as a nod to Dwight’s power and history of bringing down backboards
- It also features Dwight’s signature on the heel, uniform number on the medial side and a Superman inspired tongue featuring his “dh” logo
- When I saw his shoe along side Derrick Rose’s earlier today, it was like watching Bigfoot’s against a small child’s. Fact.
8:08 39-52 Wondering if the NBA will name Jeremy Lin as a late injury replacement? Natch. Andre Iguodola with cool dunk, followed by Blake Griffin finishing emphatically off a Chris Paul pass. Anyone would think they played together.
Dwight pulling some comedy stuff with a cookie on the big screen. Just as well he can ball. Cee Lo Green in the house, still traumatised from Super Bowl.
Steve Nash checks in for the first time. Canada can start watching. Deng sits.
End 1st East 28-39 West LeBron 11 – Durant 13. Luol 0/2.
Standing ovation for Magic Johnson as he comes onto the court following highlights of his 1992 All Star Game here. Low key atmosphere otherwise.
3:18 22-30. TNT report Andrew Bynum is likely done for the night (knee)
5:51 East 13-24 West Some nice dunks so far from Durant and LeBron. Luol Deng checks in. Wonder if he still pays his Brixton dues?
10:45 left West up 7-0 before Melo drains a free-throw.
1945 And we’re off.
1943 West Starters: Paul, Bryant, Durant, Griffin, Bynum. East Starters: Rose, Wade, James, Anthony, Howard
1940 Dwight Howard calls Orlando “my home” and “our city” in the pre-game welcome. Will that still be the case by Houston 2013?
1938 I think everyone hoping for a good game after the deflation of Friday and Saturday. Who’ll be MVP? Tweet me @markbritball with your thoughts on that and the game.
1933 I’ve always wanted to see Mary J Blige perform live. Always. Singing the Star Spangled Banner wasn’t quite I had in mind.
1925 Luol Deng pumping his All Star warm-up with a picture of Africa emblazoned on the front. Might get fined for that breach of uniform code. Nice of them to have the arena lighting red, blue and white tonight in his honour.
1922 East next… and some singer dressed at Stuff the Magic Dragon.
1920 It’s intro time. West up first.
1919 Pre-game entertainment is Nicki Minaj performing a medley of songs, including her new single “Starships,”. The majestic Mary J. Blige will sing of the U.S. national anthem. Canadian born pop band Neverest will sing the Canadian national anthem before the 61st NBA All-Star Game tip-off. No, I’ve never heard of them either.
1913 Luther is doing the pre-game video introductions. Yes, London’s own Idris Elba confusing the hell out of Americans who are wondering: ‘why is Stringer Bell doing a funny British accent?’
1905 Local Welcome to Orlando for tonight’s action. But first things first, just had a pre-game word with Steve Nash. Two words: 5. 2. Enjoyed.
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