Kevin Durant scored 31 points and was named MVP as Team LeBron erased a 20-point deficit to defeat Team Giannis 178-164 in the All-Star Game.
In the ‘First in Flight’ city, players showed up Sunday ready to launch. Team LeBron attempted 90 three-pointers (hitting 35) and the teams combined for 168 tries from deep.
Durant helped put the game away for Team LeBron with a three-pointer with two minutes left for a 171-160 lead. Kyrie Irving made a leaning floater and Durant hit 15-footer from the wing to seal it.
Just before Durant’s closing stretch, James shook off 76ers forward Joel Embiid for a corner three, and on the next trip, pounded home a one-handed slam on a lob from Irving that extended Team LeBron’s lead to 168-158.
Trading long-distance daggers and mixing the occasional lob off the glass, Durant connected on a pair of three-pointers from the right side to give Team LeBron on 161-153 lead at the five-minute mark in the fourth as shots started to fall short and handles were less certain.
Curry brought the Spectrum Center to its feet at the final buzzer, catching the ball off a hard bounce from himself and throwing in a reverse jam.
He did the same with a four-point play early in the fourth – knocking down a triple from the right wing as Warriors team-mate Klay Thompson of Team LeBron pushed him to the floor – and D’Angelo Russell added a three of his own taking Team Giannis to a 148-145 lead with 8:35 left in the game.
Philadelphia 76ers guard Ben Simmons gave Team LeBron the lead 132-131 with 36 seconds left in the quarter, closing what had been a 95-82 deficit at half-time. Team Giannis led by 20 in the third.
Damian Lillard’s 25-footers on consecutive possessions pulled Team LeBron even at 127-all, but Russell Westbrook put Bradley Beal on skates two straight trips for easy lay-ups at the rim.
Thompson drained a three from the corner in front of the Team Giannis bench to trim what was a 20-point lead in the third to five, 120-115, and Beal followed with a three-pointer of his own off a turnover to cut the advantage to 120-118.
Played above the rim in spurts, the game threatened to become a full-fledged Three-Point Contest. The first half consisted of 81 three-point attempts – 29 successful – between the teams. Team Giannis led 95-82 at half-time.
Antetokounmpo led all scorers with 20 in the first half, en route to a game-high 38. He was on a dunk-a-minute pace to start the game. In the opening seven minutes, he had 16 points to fuel Team Giannis to a 36-22 edge, while assisting on three-pointers by Bucks team-mate Khris Middleton on three consecutive possessions.
Curry, the de facto player host because of his local roots, got on the board with 5:32 left in the first half and was 2-of-7 at half-time.
Honourary All-Stars Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade checked into the game with 58 seconds left in the first quarter. Nowitzki splashed a three-pointer from the right wing on his first offensive possession, and drained another from the left wing on the subsequent possession, giving Team Giannis a 53-37 advantage entering the second quarter.
He added a third at the nine-minute mark in the second quarter and scored nine points on 3-of-3 shooting in 3:58 in the opening half.
“Thank you to the commissioner and to the NBA for allowing us to be on this stage once again,” Nowitzki said on the court between the third and fourth quarters, as every player from both rosters surrounded the veterans.
Wade said: “We want to thank each and every last one of these players. The game is in great hands. Thank you guys for this opportunity.”