CHARLOTTE, N.C. – LeBron James was trading lob passes with Dwyane Wade again, one last time. Catching lobs from Kyrie Irving once again, too. And after making a step-back 3-pointer late, he stared down Joel Embiid to send a message without saying a word.
Oh, this mattered to James – and Team LeBron as well.
Team LeBron, down by 20 in the second half, finally got firing and went on to beat Team Giannis 178-164 in the All-Star Game on Sunday night. MVP Kevin Durant scored 31 points for Team LeBron, the one that James drafted and led to victory in the captain’s-choice format for a second consecutive season.
“You put me on the floor, I love to compete,” James said in the postgame interview room. “I’m a competitor, no matter what it is. I was competing to see if I could get to this table first.”
He wasn’t kidding. He then turned to NBA spokesman Mark Broussard, asked if he was the first player to get into the room and grinned when told he was.
“See what I’m talking about?” James said.
Klay Thompson scored 20 points, and James and Kawhi Leonard each had 19 for the winners.
“It’s all sweet to me,” Durant said after getting his second All-Star MVP award, to go with the one he claimed in 2012. “It’s hard to rank because everything’s special. But it’s cool to be out there with some of the best players to ever play the game. And to win MVP in front of my family and friends is pretty sweet.”
Giannis Antetokounmpo – the first-time captain – led everybody with 38 points on 17-of-23 shooting for the club he drafted. Paul George and Khris Middleton each scored 20 points for Team Giannis, which got 17 apiece from Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.
The highlights, as would be expected, were absurdly good, time and again.
Curry slammed the ball off the floor on a first-half fast break and watched it ricochet toward the rim with an apex that flirted with the top of the backboard. Too high for most humans – but Antetokounmpo isn’t most humans. The freakishly long Greek star slammed Curry’s unconventional alley-oop pass home, with both benches reacting in disbelief.
Curry then slammed an alley-oop on the last play of the game, to himself, for a dunk that closed the scoring in his hometown.
When it was time to get competitive, things tightened up considerably, at least by All-Star standards.
But when Team LeBron used a flurry of 3s to get back into it in the third quarter, everyone on the bench was standing – sometimes running onto the court during play, the celebrations a bit more exuberant than what’s usually allowed.
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