LOS ANGELES — The all-stars put on a show for the stars of Hollywood at the 2018 all-star game in a thrilling spectacle that went right down to the wire.
Team LeBron bested Team Stephen 148-145 after trailing for most of the game.
There was even a bit of defence.
Yes, you read that right, it just happened gradually.
LeBron James earned his first all-star MVP award since 2008 after going for 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.
After James tied the game with 1:16 remaining, both sides missed chances.
Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan nailed 1-of-2 free throws, giving Team LeBron one last shot to complete the comeback. James did it himself, scoring off a pass from former teammate Kyrie Irving.
DeRozan pulled down a big offensive rebound at the other end after a James Harden miss, then threw away a pass attempt as he rolled to the basket. Russell Westbrook converted at the other end to put Team LeBron up by three with 10.7 seconds remaining. Stephen Curry couldn’t get free for a three-pointer after being swarmed by James and Kevin Durant, desperately handed it off to DeRozan who ran out of time.
DeRozan finished with 21 points and six assists. His Raptor teammate, Kyle Lowry, had four points.
Team LeBron started Westbrook in place of injured centre DeMarcus Cousins. When this scribe asked Team LeBron head coach Dwane Casey earlier in the day whether it was a tough decision to start the former league MVP and two-time all-star game top player, Casey’s “Are you nuts?” stare said it all.
Nobody plays harder in these exhibitions than Westbrook. The hope though was that this year, everybody would follow suit, since the game was not of the East/West variety for the first time. Instead, James captained and selected one team, Team Curry the other, with money going to various charities.
The message didn’t take early on, with both sides flying up and down the court at a frantic pace, but gradually, it became an actual contest, prompting legendary defensive specialist Dikembe Mutombo, standing near press row, to say, “Hey, this isn’t bad.”
And he was right.
Casey had said earlier in the day that he hoped the game would be a step in the right direction.
“We want to get the narrative back to more of a real type game, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen all in one game, but we’ve got to take steps toward getting there,” Casey said.
Casey said he had talked to LeBron about making the exhibition more interesting.
“He chimed in, said, ‘Hey, that’s what we want to do, we want to do, we’re going to compete to win.’ So when the best player is saying that and singing that tune, I think whether it’s this year or next year, or the year after that, it’s going to be closer, back to a competitive, defensive-minded game.”
Both teams struggled to hit shots from behind the arc in a first half that saw Team Stephen carry a 78-76 lead into the break.
The game reunited long-time teammates James and Irving and Westbrook and Durant, the first selection of the all-star draft, on Team LeBron.
Embiid hit a three then blocked a Westbrook shot at the other end in one of the more impressive sequences.
The competition factor really kicked in later in the game, with James contesting and preventing a DeRozan dunk attempt at one point.
It looked like Team LeBron was about to pull into the lead, then Lowry, DeRozan and Portland’s Damian Lillard heated up and put Team Stephen up big.
When the two Raptors and Lillard subbed out bad things happened and Team LeBron got right back into it, setting up the frantic finish.
The biggest cheer of the night was for Michael Jordan as he was passed the torch for next year’s event in Charlotte.