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James' one error results in West victory in All-Star Game

The Sports Xchange
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ORLANDO -- As well as he played, LeBron James left the NBA All-Star Game Sunday night haunted by his one bad -- and final -- pass.

James scored a game-high 36 points in leading a furious rally, but his last turnover in the closing seconds allowed the Western Conference to escape with a 152-149 victory at the Amway Center.

Kevin Durant, who also scored 36 points for the West, was named Most Valuable Player, an award James surely would have won if he had converted on that final possession.

"I'll get over it," James said. "But you can't turn the ball over like that. I feel like I let down my team. That's one you'd like to have back."

James scored 23 points in 16 minutes in the second half, leading a rally that erased a 21-point deficit.

With the East trailing, 151-149, in the closing seconds, James got the ball after a miss by teammates Deron Williams. But instead of taking the shot that could have tied or won the game, he hesitated and threw a bad pass that was intercepted by Blake Griffin with :01.9 remaining. Griffin was immediately fouled and converted one of his free throws.

After the play, James had to hear Kobe Bryant barking in his ear, reminding him he made a bad decision.

"We all wanted to win, and it came down to the final minute," James said. "Not only me and Kobe, but a lot of other guys."

The East, which trailed the entire game, missed an early chance to take its only lead when Dwyane Wade bobbled the ball out of bounds under the basket after taking a pass from James with just over one minute remaining.

Durant, who has led the Oklahoma City Thunder to the best record this season in the West, carried his team early, but he was not much of a factor late. He had only two points in fourth quarter, when the intensity of the game was raised by James and Bryant.

"To step it up and become the MVP of this game, it's amazing," Durant said. "It's something you can only dream about as a kid. Coming from where I come from, I didn't think I'd ever get here. I'm glad to be taking this (trophy) back to Oklahoma City."

Bryant had 27 points to become the All-Star Game all-time leading scorer with 271 points, passing Michael Jordan (262) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (251).

The game grew somewhat serious in the third quarter when the East began its surge. Wade, deciding to stop Bryant on one drive to the basket, smacked him in the nose and drew blood.

Wade finished with a triple double, getting 24 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help James lead that second-half comeback.

The West led 88-69 at halftime, setting an All-Star Game record for most points in a half. Bryant got the West going quickly when he scored nine points in the first six minutes. He hit five of six shots in that opening quarter for 11 points.

By halftime, though, it was the Durant/Russell Westbrook combination from Oklahoma City that was dominating the game. The two combined for 38 points before intermission. Westbrook scored once on a pass to himself off the backboard, over the top of East defenders who didn't move, but much of the time he had help from Durant.

This was one game where it helped having a regular-season teammate playing alongside you. Durant and Westbrook (Thunder), Blake Griffin and Chris Paul (Clippers), and Wade and James all benefited from getting the ball in scoring position from a teammate.

The duo combinations were not lost on Orlando's Dwight Howard, who looked left out of the run-and-gun scoring binge. Defense and shot blocking, Howard's forte, are not exactly All-Star friendly until late.

As an indication of how seriously he took the game, Howard attempted and missed four 3-point shots. In his eight NBA seasons, Howard had made one of 33 shots from 3-point range.

Lakers center Andrew Bynum, who has been rumored to be part of a Dwight Howard-to-the-West Coast trade, blocked Howard's first shot on the opening possession, which surprised the Magic center. Although there was very little defense played until late Sunday night, Howard went after Bynum a few possessions later and blocked his shot in return.

Howard finished with nine points and 10 rebounds.

NOTES: Magic Johnson, the MVP of the All-Star Game in Orlando 20 years ago, was honored between the first and second periods. Johnson had stunned the world before that 1991-92 season when he suddenly retired because he had contracted the AIDS virus. He still was voted into the game by the fans with more votes than anyone and played his first game at All-Star Weekend. To no one's surprise Sunday, he looked great. ... Howard played the role of host before the game, addressing the fans in attendance and thanking them for their support. He got a warm round of applause from the Orlando-dominated crowd. Howard did his usual pre-game ritual of making the other nine players wait for him to be the last to move into the jump circle. ... This was the most distributed game in All-Star history, going to fans in 215 countries and territories and in 45 languages. Fans were getting it either on television, online or on their mobile devices. More than 336 international media members from 39 countries were on hand. Among those were 90 media members from Greater China.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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