LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James and Kevin Durant swarmed all over Stephen Curry in the final seconds, preventing the NBA’s best shooter from finding even a patch of open air to launch a tying 3-pointer.
Defense? In an All-Star Game?
That was just one of the many exciting surprises created by a big change to the league’s midseason showcase. After James and Curry got to draft their own teams, this exhibition really seemed to matter to basketball’s best.
And LeBron picked a winner.
James scored 29 points and hit the go-ahead layup with 34.5 seconds to play, winning his third All-Star Game MVP award while his team rallied to win an uncommonly entertaining edition of the event, beating Team Stephen 148-145 Sunday night.
For the first time in 67 All-Star games, the league abandoned the traditional East-West format used since 1951, instead allowing the two captains to pick their sides. That twist turned a sometimes staid event into the world’s richest pickup game, and the intrigue was reflected on the Staples Center court, where a real basketball game broke out.
“I think the format was great,” said James, who added 10 rebounds and eight assists in front of LA fans salivating at the still-remote possibility of the Lakers landing the superstar as a free agent this summer.
“The great thing about our commissioner (Adam Silver), he’s absolutely OK with trying something new, to change the format, and it definitely worked out for everybody,” James added. “It worked out not only for the players, not only for the league, but for our fans, for everybody. It was a great weekend, and we capped it off the right way.”
Both teams played real defense for long stretches and contested many shots, with LeBron’s group even picking up full-court late in the first half.