Team LeBron wins NBA All-Star game

Team LeBron scored a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen in a surprisingly competitive NBA All-Star game on Sunday.

Kevin Durant (L) and LeBron James celebrate as Team LeBron defeated Team Stephen at the 2018 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.   -  AFP

The NBA All-Star game is generally regarded as an exhibition game, with players given the freedom to score at will. Tight defence is not a trait associated with the league’s showcase fixture of the season.

Sunday’s outing witnessed a welcome departure from the norm, as the game was played with a rare competitive spirit. So much so that on the final play, Stephen Curry was shut down by a double-team led by LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Curry was forced to pass it off to DeMar DeRozan, who could not convert a hurried, last-ditch three-point attempt. The miss gave Team LeBron a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen.

The improved man-marking, however, affected the offensive flow. Turnovers were in plenty, as passing lanes were closed down with alert interceptions. The easy layups and dunks were few and far between. Team LeBron even appealed for a television review of an out-of-bounds
call.

VIDEO: LeBron a fan of new All-Star format

“Steph and I took it upon ourselves to change the landscape of how the All-Star Game is played. The last couple of years wasn't as competitive as we would have liked," James said, in the post-match television interview. The Cleveland Cavaliers star recorded 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists to claim his third career All-Star MVP title.

“The level of competitiveness and intensity was high. We had an actual match, and not just a pseudo-dunk contest,” Curry said.

Both captains were pleased with the new format used to pick the squads. In previous years, players were slotted into Eastern and Western Conference sides, but this time around, it was left to James and Curry to choose the rosters. The change was proposed by Houston Rockets point guard Chris Paul, the president of the players’ union.

Team LeBron was awarded $3,50,000 to give to a charity of its choice (After-School All-Stars). Team Stephen selected 'Brotherhood Crusade'
to receive a $1,50,000 donation.

The loudest cheer of the night was reserved for Chicago Bulls legend and Charlotte Hornets Chairman Michael Jordan, who received the 2019
All-Star game ball. Jordan and Charlotte play host to the All-Star weekend next year.

(The writer was in Los Angeles on invitation from NBA and Sony Six)