Dwight Howard showed his affection for Orlando Magic owner Rich DeVos. Kobe Bryant set a new scoring record. And Russell Westbrook, Blake Griffin and others dazzled with rim-rattling dunks.
Sunday’s 2012 NBA All-Star Game at Amway Center featured plenty of highlights, but nothing compared to the finish or to the performance of Kevin Durant.
The Western Conference held off a late Eastern Conference rally to win 152-149 and help Durant capture the game’s Most Valuable Player award for the first time.
“It’s just exciting to be named an All-Star, but to step it up another level and become MVP, it’s only something that as a kid you dream about,” Durant said. “Coming from where I come from, I didn’t think I would be here.”
Durant proved he belonged, just as he has throughout his young pro career.
He scored 36 points on 14-of-25 shooting, collected seven rebounds and dished out three assists in one of the highest-scoring All-Star Games in league history.
LeBron James also scored 36 points, and he helped spark the East’s late comeback.
He definitely had a more productive game than the host player, Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard.
Howard, who received loud applause from the announced sellout crowd of 17,125 during the pregame introductions, finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. In a measure of how the All-Star Game is an exhibition meant to entertain and not a real game, Howard attempted four 3-pointers and made none of them.
Howard had no complaints about his relative lack of shot attempts during his postgame press conference with reporters. Instead, he emphasized how he felt Orlando had been “on fire” during the weekend, that “it felt like the Finals again” and that the past few days “were great for our city.”
He declined to discuss his long-term plans.
The West led by 21 points early in the third quarter and by 12 to begin the fourth.
But the East cut its deficit to 150-149 on a pair of free throws by Dwyane Wade with 22.8 seconds left.
Bryant was fouled with 16.3 seconds remaining, and when he went to the foul line, Paul Pierce chided him from the East bench.
“He missed two the other night in Dallas!” Pierce yelled.
Bryant hit the first foul shot but missed the second to extend the lead to 151-149.
The East could not take advantage of its opportunities.
Deron Williams missed a potential game-winning 3-point try with 8.9 seconds remaining.
And, after Griffin made one of two free throws with 1.1 seconds left, Wade missed a potential game-tying 3 as time expired.
MVP Kevin Durant steals show as West downs East at NBA All-Star Game in Orlando | Video
NBA All-Star MVP Kevin Durant drives the lane. (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel)