Talking Points: West tops East in All-Star nailbiter

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Talking Points: West tops East in All-Star nailbiter

ORLANDO, Fla. Like most NBA all-star games, what looked like a blowout in the making, suddenly became a close game in the fourth quarter.

Despite a furious comeback in the fourth by the East, they could not overcome a strong first half by the West which hung on for a 152-149 win.

The East had a chance to go up in the final seconds of play, but a 3-point attempt by New Jersey's Deron Williams was well off the mark. The loose ball wound up back in the hands of the East, but LeBron James' pass was picked off by Blake Griffin who was immediately fouled.

He made one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds to play.

Kevin Durant had 36 points as the Western Conference All-Stars won for the second straight year, and third time in the last four years.

After trailing by as many as 21 points, a James 3-pointer made it a one-possession game (144-141) with about three minutes to play. He also had 36 points.

But a floater by Durant and a powerful, one-handed dunk by Russell Westbrook put the West back on top 148-143.

The East weren't ready to give up quite yet.

A dunk by Dwight Howard and a Deron Williams lay-up following a steal cut the deficit to 148-147.

The East had a chance to take the lead with about 80 seconds to play, but Dwyane Wade lost control of a long pass from James that sailed out of bounds. Wade had a triple-double of 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

That would prove to be a huge gaffe, as Griffin had a put-back dunk of a Westbrook miss to make it a 150-147 game with less than a minute to play.

The tight finish was a far cry from the way the game was being played in the first half.

Look no further than the shooting percentages at the half.

The West, which had an 88-69 lead at the half, was shooting 60.3 percent from the field while the East wasn't too shabby while connecting on 49.2 percent of its shots.

One of the game's other highlights was Kobe Bryant who finished with 27 points. In doing so, he surpassed Michael Jordan for the all-time leading scorer in All-Star game history. Bryant now has 271 points, breaking Jordan's mark of 262.
HOT SHOT: Kevin Durant of the West and LeBron James of the East put on a great show scoring the ball. And while they each finished with 36 points, Durant came up with some clutch buckets in the game's closing moments. LeBron?Not so much. That's why Durant's team won and he was named MVP.

IN-N-OUT: Paul Pierce said after the game he was trying to get up some shots. Mission accomplished. Making a few of them would have been nice, though. Pierce, one of just five Celtics to be named to 10 all-star games for the Green Team, had three points while missing seven of his eight shot attempts.

SUPER SUB: Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook continues to prove he's more than just Kevin Durant's sidekick. Named to his second straight All-Star team, Westbrook came off the bench and scored 21 points - more than any other All-Star reserve - on 10-for-17 shooting. He also managed to grab five rebounds.

TURNING POINT:With the East trailing 151-149, Deron Williams attempts a 3-pointer that's off the mark, but Williams is able to get the rebound. The ball winds up in the hands of LeBron James with time running down. He tries to throw a cross-court pass to a teammate, but the pass is intercepted by Blake Griffin who is fouled with 1.1 seconds to play. Griffin made one of the two free throws to secure the win.

BY THE NUMBERS: 2: That would be the number of consecutive wins for the West, snapping a string of alternating wins that dates back to 2006.

QUOTE OF NOTE: "It's just exciting to be named an All-Star, 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."-Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant, who was named All-Star MVP.

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

WATCH: Celtics vs. Hornets

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Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

Celtics-Hornets preview: Boston, Charlotte heading in opposite directions

BOSTON -- The last time Boston saw the Charlotte Hornets last month, both teams were streaking in the wrong direction with each coming in having lost three in a row.

Both come into tonight’s game streaking, although in two very different directions.

Boston (25-15) has won 12 of its last 15 games to firmly establish itself as the third-best team in the East behind Cleveland and Toronto. Meanwhile the Hornets (20-20) are on the cusp of falling below .500 for the first time this season after losing their last four games.

Still, Celtics coach Brad Stevens has seen enough of this Hornets team to know that a win tonight won’t come easily.

“This is a good team,” Stevens said. “We all know Charlotte. They don’t beat themselves. We’ve had to play really well against those guys. This is going to be a tough one, as we all know.”

Figuring out why these two teams are trending in opposite directions isn’t all that complicated.

For the Celtics, their success of late has hinged heavily on their ability to make 3-pointers. Meanwhile, Charlotte’s problems have had a lot to do with a tough slate of road games (all four of their recent losses were on the road) and their inability to make shots which has been an issue in some form for them all season regardless of the opponent.

Look at the last four games, all of which the Hornets lost while the Celtics won three of their four games in that span.

The Hornets rank 21st in scoring with a 101.5 points per game average while the Celtics average 110.8 points which ranks 8th in the league.

Charlotte ranks dead-last in the league the last four games when it comes to shooting the ball (40.5 percent), while Boston comes in 18th at 46.0 percent.

But it’s the 3-point shot and its impact on having an effective field goal percentage, that really separates these two.

Boston has averaged a league-best 15.3 made 3-pointers in the last four games while the Hornets and their 9.8 made 3’s ranks 20th.

And as far as its impact on eFG%, Boston comes in with the eighth-best eFG% in the league (54.8 percent) while the Hornets next-to-last in the NBA with an eFG% of .462.

So what does that mean tonight?

Boston will look to continue being fueled offensively by good ball movement and attacking the rim which in turn should result in lots of good looks from 3-point range which is clearly a strength of this team.

Charlotte will search for other sources of offense besides former UConn star Kemba Walker who is on the short list of candidates for a spot on this year’s Eastern Conference all-star roster.

As was the case in Charlotte’s 102-93 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday, an off-night shooting for Walker (17 points, 7-for-23 shooting with three assists) left the Hornets extremely vulnerable to defeat. Similar struggles tonight will provide a similar ending for Charlotte which would allow both teams to continue streaking along … something the Celtics wouldn’t mind at all.