ORLANDO, Fla. The legend of LeBron James not closing out games continues. Despite having a really strong game all night, a costly turnover late in the game by James proved costly, as the West hung on for a 152-149 win.
James had 36 points, six rebounds and seven assists in leading the East. But it was his fourth and final turnover, an errant cross-court pass picked off by Blake Griffin, that folks will remember in a game that really didn't pick up until the fourth quarter.
It's not just fans who get on James when he makes those kind of end-of-the-game mistakes.
Following the turnover, West perennial All-Star Kobe Bryant had some words for him as well.
"He (Bryant) was telling me to shoot it," James said. "I seen my teammate open for a split-second, I told him I seen him open the first time and I didn't release the ball. When I tried to throw it late, that's what usually happens and it results in a turnover. Definitely wish I could have that one back."
James' late-game turnover was certainly one of the factors in the game's outcome. We examined some prior to tip-off. Here we'll take a look and see how those factors played out.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR - With Dwight Howard demanding a trade earlier this year, it'll be interesting to see just how the fans will embrace him. So far, Magic fans have shown him nothing but love. And to Howard's credit, he told the media immediately upon the interview sessions that he's only answering all-star related questions this weekend. Still, if you see him on the break and he's catching lob dunk after lob dunk from New Jersey's Deron Williams (who is trying to convince him to come to New Jersey next season), how's that gonna play out with the Magic fans at the game?
WHAT WE SAW - Dwight Howard said all the right things before the game, but didn't exactly seem all that engaged during the game. In fact, it seemed as though he went out of his way to not score. He finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Big men rarely put up big numbers in all-star games, but nine points from the most dominate center in the NBA? Unacceptable, even in an All-Star game setting.
MATCHUP TO WATCH - LeBron James vs Kevin Durant: Not only are they among the NBA's best scorers, they're arguably the two front-runners for the league MVP award this season. In addition to James having an edge in statistics this season, the Heat may finish with a better record in what's turning out to be an unprecedented season of success in Miami.
WHAT WE SAW - James and Durant went back and fourth for most of the night, with each finishing with 36 points. Durant, who also had seven rebounds, three steals and three assists, was named MVP in part because of the win, but also in coming through with clutch plays down the stretch while James committed a costly turnover in the game's closing moments to help seal the fate of the East team. "It's just exciting to be named an All-Star," Durant said. "But to step it up another level and become MVP, it's only something that as a kid you dream about. Coming from where I come from, I didn't think I would be here. Everything has just been a blessing to me. I'm excited."
PLAYER TO WATCH - As an Eastern Conference All-Star replacement, it'll be interesting to see how much Rajon Rondo plays tonight. Most of the All-Star veterans like to take it easy unless they have it going offensively. That's not likely to happen with Rondo, who will most likely do what Rondo does best - pass to guys who want to score.
WHAT WE SAW - It didn't take Rondo long to find fellow All-Stars in position to score. Despite playing just under 16 minutes, Rondo finished with eight assists. "I had a good experience," Rondo said. "It's always an honor to be named an All-Star. And I had fun. I spent a lot of time with my family; I enjoyed myself."
STAT TO TRACK - Scoring is, as expected, higher than usual in the all-star game. But there's one number that all but guarantees you a win - at least it has the past few years. The last three winners scored at least 140 points.
WHAT WE SAW - True to form, this was yet another high-scoring All-Star game with both teams cracking the 140-point plateau. This was the second year in a row, and fifth time since the first All-Star game in 1951, that both teams eclipsed the 140-point plateau.