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.

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

Celtics miss an opportunity in first half with LeBron in foul trouble

CLEVELAND – There are 240 minutes of play in an NBA game, but Boston’s 112-99 Game 4 loss to Cleveland came down to seven (six minutes and 46 seconds to be precise).

That would be the amount of time left in the second quarter that LeBron James spent on the bench with four personal fouls (a first for him in the first half of an NBA playoff game ever) and Boston ahead by 10 points.

Boston could not have asked for a better scenario than that, especially considering how well they had played up to that point in the game and again, knowing that James wasn’t about to set foot back on the court until the third quarter.

But here’s the problem.

Boston’s 10-point lead when James left with four fouls.

Halftime rolled around and Boston’s lead was still at just 10 points.

Celtics players agreed that not finding a way to increase their lead with James out was among the more pivotal stretches of play in Game 4.

“They did a really good job of not letting it (the 10-point lead) get out of control while he was on the bench,” Boston’s Marcus Smart told CSNNE.com. “Every time we scored, they came back and scored.  They answered back with everything we answered.”

While many will point to that stretch as a time when the Celtics failed to make the necessary adjustments to increase their chances of winning, it wasn’t as if the Cavs are a one-man team.

“They still have two All-Stars out on the court,” said Boston’s head coach Brad Stevens, referring to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. “With the best player in the world they go to unreal, but they’re still a pretty darned good team when those guys are out there.”

Irving had a playoff career-high 42 points which included him scoring 12 of Cleveland’s 14 points in the final 6:46 of the second with James on the bench.

“He’s one of the best point guards in the NBA, and you know, you can tell he puts in a lot of work in his game, a lot of respect from myself, my teammates,” said Avery Bradley. “We have to do a better job at defending him as a unit, trying to make everything hard on him. He definitely got a great rhythm going tonight, and I felt like we had a chance to make it harder on him.”

James still finished with a strong stat line for the night – 34 points, six assists, five rebounds and a blocked shot.

As good as he was on the court, the Celtics have to be kicking themselves for not doing more with the time James on the bench in the second quarter which in hindsight, was among the bigger factors in them now returning home facing elimination as opposed to being tied at two games apiece in this series.

“What are you going to do?” said Cleveland’s Kevin Love. “You have to continue to fight through it. At halftime, we were down 10. We made some adjustments on the defensive end and we just fought; we needed to. They got everything out of us tonight in that second half, but we played more inspired basketball as well.”