As long as the scores are close, the only thing that matters in an all-star game are the last eight minutes. This exhibition was no exception was no exception. The game bounced back and forth for three quarters with some up and down play. Highlights of the first three quarters included:
- Joakim Noah playing like the crazy guy at the gym who doesn’t realize that no one else is really trying.
- Kyrie Irving with a nice sequence in the mid 2nd with a couple nice pretty decent feeds and then a patented pick and roll split dribble into a two handed soft slam. He followed this up with a three, a nice lob pass, and lots of joshing around on the sideline like he belonged.
- Jrue Holiday with an explosive left handed slam in the 2nd that surprised everyone.
- Craig Sager’s suit:
- Blake Griffin scoring 19 points, almost entirely on slam dunks, and most off ridiculous feeds from CP3.
- Chris Bosh being routinely isolated on guards and then destroyed. The best moment came when Paul passed to himself on the dribble between Bosh’s legs for a layup (see the pic below).
- Kevin Durant “falling out of bed and scoring 30 points” (that line courtesy of Reggie and Marv).
- Kevin Hart on the halftime show talking about being a two time celebrity game MVP with Charles, Kenny, Ernie Johnson, C-Webb, and Shaq; replete with riotous laughter and and lots and lots of short jokes. This segment went on for at least fifteen minutes. I really had no idea what was going on. Did anyone else find this laughing gas infused sequence as inscrutable as I did?
- A pretty brutal 3rd quarter sequence with both teams trading missed pull up three point attempts on six consecutive possessions. I believe one of these was by Brook Lopez. Ugh.
- A bizarre Craig Saiger sideline interview with Dwight Howard that made about as much sense as the Kevin Hart sequence.
- A VERY nice game by Paul George, who had 17 points in 20 minutes on drives, finishes, three pointers, and post ups. He’s a poor man’s Kevin Durant. If George could put it all together on a consistent basis (and if he had a better point guard), he could average 24 ppg.
Crunch Time officially starts at 8:41 left in the 4th. The score is 119-109 West after an 11-5 run to start the quarter. After a Tyson Chandler free throw, Kyrie cans two left corner threes in a row. One point game. Wow. That escalated quickly. Then the moment Clevelanders have been waiting for happens: LBJ checks in. He and KI are on the floor together in crunch time for the first time ever. And then? Kyrie starts to press.
First, he misses a heat check three and two possessions later gets his pocket picked by Chris Paul. KI does get a runout layup, and then with 3:19 left tries to go in amongst the tall trees and loses the ball to Blake Griffin. His two turnovers resembled the ones that have come at the end of recent Cleveland losses: trying to do too much — over-dribbling and not simply passing to the open teammate.
Meanwhile… A subplot has developed. Chris Paul and Kobe Bryant have made this personal. Chris Paul seems a little annoyed at all this Kyrie talk. It’s almost as if someone has told him about Reggie Miller’s hyperbole from the first half: “Kyrie Irving best skill set of any point guard in the NBA.” Taking the ridiculousness of that assertion as motivation, CP3 goes on a mini tear: feeds Durant, then Blake Griffin, then makes a sweet layup on Kyrie at an impossible angle, and then makes a pullup 25 footer all in the space of about 3 minutes. He’s checking Kyrie, and the ball pressure has gone from nonexistent to well, at least regular season level.
Kobe has made this personal too, and LeBron seems to be wearing his “why doesn’t Kobe like me?” face during the middle of this West run. Kobe converts a vintage layup driving from the left wing to the right side of the basket, and then COMES FROM OUT OF NOWHERE to block a 19 foot LeBron jumper, leading to a calmly laced Durant dunk. 136-126 West. All the chatter heading into the time out is about the Jordan comments on picking Kobe over LeBron because of five rings to one and how these comments are fueling Kobe’s fire.
(LeBron’s rebuttal to Jordan’s comments was lame and equivocating. It boggles my mind that LBJ didn’t have the brains, fire, or nuts to just say, “Why would you take team building advice from a guy who drafted Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy and Rudy Gay?” Jordan would’ve thrown a dagger like that without blinking an eye. LeBron just seemed pained by the whole thing. And this is why LeBron will NEVER be better than Jordan. He’s just not the –rhymes with bass troll– that His Airness is.)
Kyrie is replaced by Paul George at 2:32 after this 7-0 West run. 37 second later, Chris Paul engraves his name on the MVP trophy with a 26 foot three to ice the game. Paul George tries to make it interesting with two quick threes off of Noah led fast breaks (I love how Joakim never quits), cutting the lead to 139-134.
Kobe then rips LeBron which leads to a Blake dunk, and then block’s LeBron’s shot from 5 feet. James definitely did not get the memo that said, “coffee’s for closers,” or the one that said, Kobe will eat your children if you let him. Kobe’s barking about how LeBron can’t score on him, after which LBJ tries to bull move him into the post and gets a pity free throw. Man, that was lame, LeBron.
Melo cuts it to 4 on a three pointer, and then CP3 hits 1-2 at the line, timeout. West up 143-138 with 20 seconds left in the game. Kyrie comes in for Noah, and the play out of the timeout is Paul George for three? I was laughing on my couch. Is there any way that Kobe’s not shooting that shot for West if the situations were reversed? I’m pretty sure Spoelstra was protecting LeBron’s ego by not drawing up that play for him. Game over. West wins. Two years of LeBron punking out in the all-star game in a row… Please pretend that the Heat can’t be beat.
Chris Paul killed this game, with 20 points, 15 dimes, 3 turnovers, and 4 steals. He proved the old Bill Simmons assertion that all-star games are always better when a great point guard is getting everyone involved. The East didn’t have that great point guard. KI needs to watch this game and realize how Chris Paul makes everyone around him better, and goes for the right decision instead of the highlight play. Right now KI is trending more towards Allen Iverson’s game and not Chris Paul’s, and long term, I’m not sure this is a good thing. But he’s only 20: a youngblood. I have to keep remembering that. He had a mostly scintillating all-star weekend. I just hope it doesn’t go to his head.