CHICAGO. — Team LeBron called Kawhi Leonard’s number on the first possession of the game, a 3-pointer that touched only net.
The Los Angeles Clippers All-Star made his first four 3s, scored a game-high 30 points and took home the Kobe Bryant MVP Award on Sunday.
“It’s very special,” Leonard said. “I had a relationship with (Bryant). Words can’t explain how happy I am for it. … He means a lot to me. He’s a big inspiration in my life.”
Anthony Davis made a walk-off free throw and Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis in the 69th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
Davis, the Los Angeles Lakers’ big man and first pick in the All-Star draft, missed badly off the back iron before sinking the second for a 157-155 victory in the unique, hotly contested showcase.
Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks) had 25 in a losing effort for Team Giannis.
When the dust settled, Antetokounmpo said it was important to acknowledge what other players had said after the game: that they felt Bryant’s presence in the building.
“We definitely felt his presence. Growing up, watching Kobe in those games, I felt like he was always competitive, and he was kind of the one who got the game going,” Antetokounmpo said. “I think we kept that going tonight. I think he definitely would have loved to watch the way we went out there and competed tonight.
“Over the years, the All-Star Game has been a game where it just hasn’t been as competitive as probably the fans would like, but tonight it definitely was, and we got to keep that going.”
Neither team used a sub in the final quarter.
“We wouldn’t be All-Stars if we weren’t competitors,” LeBron James said. “We all compete at the highest level. Guys definitely had that sense of pride.”
Team Giannis coach Nick Nurse stuck with a lineup that included point guard Kyle Lowry in favor of Atlanta’s Trae Young, who had 10 assists in 15 minutes and might have helped penetrate what became a lockdown defense late in the game.
“Even first pass to start the offense was being denied,” Nurse said, citing the elevated game intensity the closer teams got to 157.
The untimed fourth quarter was a race to a target final score — determined by adding 24 points to the score of the team leading after three quarters — as part of a tribute to Bryant.
Team Giannis led 133-124 after three quarters, thus setting the target score at 157.
James gave Team LeBron a 156-153 lead. But on the ensuing Team LeBron possession, Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder) opted for a 3 and missed. At the other end, Team Giannis closed the gap to 156-155 on two Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers) free throws.
James was denied an earlier basket that would have made the score 156-153 after a review showed Antetokounmpo cleanly blocked James’ layup initially called goaltending.
James Harden (Houston Rockets) made up for a missed set of free throws by making two and putting Team LeBron up 154-152.
Team LeBron mounted a comeback in the fiery final quarter that included Team Giannis’ Kyle Lowry taking two charges and an official challenge — overturning a foul call to a jump ball and change of possession — with the game tied at 152. – Reuters