In Game Of Stars, Kobe, Durant, & LeBron Shine Brightest

Darius Soriano —  February 20, 2011

What a game.

Kobe had it going early, Lebron had it going late, and Durant iced the contest in the end. In between those guys doing what they do best, Amar’e threw down a dunk nearly any time he was within five feet of the hoop and was the East’s best big man for most of the evening.

The game started with our own #24 going to work on offense and showing that there is still some life in those 32 year old legs. Throwing down multiple dunks and getting good lift on his jumper, Kobe was in vintage form in the early going. It’s tough to choose a specific play to call my favorite, but his first dunk of the night where he went up and under the rim and threw it down with two hands was a highpoint for me. The play just showed so many facets of Kobe’s game…you had the great first step, the ability to tightrope the baseline, and then the spectacular finish all on a single play. The fact that we’ve rarely seen that explosiveness from him this year was just the icing on the cake.  But it wasn’t just on offense that Kobe was doing major work. He had a game high 14 rebounds, added 3 assists and 3 steals to a very good line.

But while Kobe was human down the stretch, Lebron and Kevin Durant were not. The self proclaimed King saw a double digit deficit in the 2nd half and decided that he was not going to go down without a fight. He turned up his intensity on defense, started to rebound the ball, and then did what he did best by pushing the ball in the open court and bulling his way to the basket. Highlighted by a classic LeBron dunk where he brought the ball what seemed like two feet behind his head and explosively through the ball through the hoop with amazing power, James was a dominant player down the stretch either getting his own shot with ease or setting up a mate (usually Amar’e) for a good look at the rim. Lebron ended the night with a triple double, dropping 29 points to go along with 12 rebounds and 10 assists. If there was a more complete player on the floor for the entirety of the game I’m not sure who he was. And considering how well Kobe played, that’s really saying something.

As for Durant, what can you really say about the man that has clearly become the most dangerous scoring threat in the league. While he didn’t match Kobe’s game high 37, KD did drop 34 points of his own making 11 of his 23 FG’s, going 8-8 from the foul line and throwing in 4 three pointers. But it wasn’t just the fact that Durant was knocking down shots, it’s the fact that he hit the big shots down the stretch. When LeBron was nearly single handedly bringing the East back to within two points in the closing minutes, it was Durant nailing a pull up jumper from the top of the circle and then following that up with a three pointer for a one man 5 point run that essentially iced the game. Two straight daggers for Durant and that was that. Really, it was a sight to see him step up the way that he did and seize the moment. It really is tough to believe that he’s only in his 4th season.

Despite this being an All-Star game though, every game needs some role players “stepping up” in order to get the win. For the West team, those guys were easily Russ Westbrook, Deron Williams, and Pau Gasol. Westbrook was tremendous going to the basket all night and had one of the better moves going to the rim all night where he left his defender in his wake by crossing over from right to left and then throwing up a lefty scoop with english that he banked home. Russ ended the night with 12 points on 6-12 shooting and chipped in 5 rebounds as well. Williams, meanwhile, didn’t shoot the ball that well (2-7 FG’s) but did everything else well tying for the team high in assists with 7, playing pretty good D down the stretch, and just being a solid guard when the West needed some stability.

But it was Gasol’s under the radar performance that most helped secure the win when looking outside Kobe and Durant. Pau had 17 points (a high mark for points in all his ASG appearances) on 8-13 shooting and also grabbed 6 offensive boards, none bigger than a tip in off a Kobe miss with less than a minute left that pushed the West lead back to 4 and ultimately kept the East at arms length. His final two FT’s pushed the lead up to 6 and that pretty much ended the game.

In the end, though, the game was about Kobe showing that he’s still got something for the league by earning his 4th All-Star game MVP award and putting on a show for the hometown fans. It’s hard to put into words watching him continue to have something in reserve and defy what people think he should be. Just a tremendous effort from him. I feel quite grateful that I was here to witness it in person.

Darius Soriano

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17 responses to In Game Of Stars, Kobe, Durant, & LeBron Shine Brightest

  1. This game was indicative of a common thread this year- No matter how amped Kobe gets he can’t maintain a full 4 quarters. He leads the league in 20+ point halves, but has trouble doubling that.

    The issue with that is if it’s obvious to me, it could be obvious to anyone and sometimes even if he holds off the first half, he can’t dig it up for the second. If he does dominate the first, everybody else is cold later in the game.

    This is why he has to learn to trust Pau more, especially in the 4th. IMHO anyways.

  2. Mimsy’s Hubby (Jim C.) February 20, 2011 at 11:04 pm

    Kobe and Lebron were certainly the two best players in the game, but I dispute the Durant inclusion.

    This game was a great example of the box score not being representative of the final outcome.

    Durant KILLED the West for 3+ quarters with his forced threes and gunning for the MVP. The final statline was decent, but actually watching the game told a different story.

    Durant wanted to make a statement and forced shot after shot and three pointer after three pointer trying to put up stats.

    I actually am a huge fan of Durant normally. His twittered extension update was a breath of fresh air last offseason, but he’s getting undue accolades here. He hit a couple of spoonfed shots down the stretch, but overall he hurt the West as often as helped.

  3. One of the fun things to watch about Kobe is the way he can shift gears, not so much in terms of speed but simply skill-set…. he’s such a complete player and student of the game and it’s something else to watch the in-game adjustments and awareness and the way he can manipulate his surroundings – it sometimes seems as if the axis actually shifts, if that makes any sense.

  4. Watching the game in real time may leave false impressions. But the last few minutes of the game, it seemed to me like East tried hard to contain Kobe, double and triple teams at times. And Kobe being Kobe, he did try just a bit too hard. Nice assist to Durant for the 3-point dagger, though.

    NBA TV showed the 1987 ASG following the game. What a classic! Olajuwon fouled out, Cap and a few others had 5. In an All-Star Game!

  5. I sometimes cannot help but grimace/smirk that whole ESPN NBA is founded to bash/disparage/undermine/belittle KB with at full mast albeit under snide camouflage usually.Adande,Kamentzky,Abbott etc with the cameo appearances of the ”commentors claiming to watch the games and support Lakers”.Like it or not No 24 will be around for some while.
    Good recap though.

  6. Great coverage Darius, this is one of the best all-around All-Star weekends I can remember. Glad Kobe got the MVP but we all knew it was coming, he won’t let someone else take that in his house. It’s why he is still the best in the world no matter what all the haters say.

  7. @ #1. Some fans just can’t be happy with a Kobe performance, even if it was good enough to win a 4th Allstar MVP. 37 points, 14 rebounds (!), 3 steals, and 3 assists just isn’t good enough because he didn’t go off for 44 or 50 or 81. And btw, I concur with #4. The East decided to go after Kobe with hard doubleteams (in the Allstar Game !) so someone else had to beat them down the stretch (Durant).

  8. Jim C – great observation! Durant was horrible in the first two quarters. But he did ice the game at the end.

    JD totally agree that this year, for the Lakers to win, Kobe has to trust Pau (and others more) He has to. At the same time, Pau and LO have to step up on the big stage and not shrink under pressure. Both sides fo that equation have to work for the Lakers to win this year. And as you point out. Much of that rides on Kobe being willing to let others do the heavy lifting at crucial times.

    My one complaint about the ESPN story line is that they all mention how Kobe was gunning for MVP (fair enough observation), but then wouldn’t they have to say LeBron was also? Rather than saying this guy or that guy was gunning for MVP, I would say Kobe and LeBron both really wanted to win that game.

  9. It’s hard to disect an All-Star game. I think at this point in Kobe’s career he isn’t a good all-star game player. He took it as if it was a regular season game. He doesn’t have the athleticism to just coast and make spectacular plays so he almost has to go hard, which I’m sure for the Kobe haters will make them say he was ball hogging and just trying to get the MVP.

    Either way, I miss the 80′s and early 90′s where at least from my viewpoint the players played hard throughout.

    I just hope the Lakers are ready to make their run now starting with tomorrow’s game against Atlanta.

  10. Is it just me or is Amare jealous of kobe? After the game he said that kobe was ballhogging and was shooting the ball whenever he had it in his hands.

  11. Spartacus…

    A bit of armchair fanatic psychology here, but the only guy in the league who is not jealous of Kobe (and his talent, and success), is Derek Fisher.

    OK… and Tim Duncan.

    But you bet that everyone else hates him, envies him, is afraid of him, and is a bit in awe of him.

    That look on Lebron’s face last night says it all…

  12. @10, I thought the same thing. But then I laughed, because Amare has NOTHING.

    :)

  13. VoR you hit in on the head. It is a two way street but this is where Phil also needs to step in and put Gasol in position to get the ball more in crunch time. Would it be terrible to call him a play in that scenario every once in a while? That said how many of us would trust our lives with two points down and Pau at the line to tie the game? Yeah I didn’t think so… and this is problem for Kobe too. If he trusts the player he will pass it to him be it an Horry or a Fisher but he does not trust Pau in that situation. That said, there is a need for Pau to vary his approach too. He handles the ball well but you know he is going to hold it for 3 to 4 seconds looking for an open man, and to check to see if anyone is going to double him. This makes him susceptible to hard doubles and giving up turnovers at times. Also it makes it easier to guard him since the defender can relax and set himself initially since he knows Pau will not take it hard to the hoop as soon as he gets it (Pau needs to do this 20 to 25% of the time to keep them honest). Kobe also has trouble with both knees and arthritic finger(s) on his long range jumper so more and more teams are laying off him and giving him that shot.

    I disagree with many who feel Melo’ would hurt Lakers chances this year. He would give them the added clutch scoring and Kobe would trust him in that role. Bynum does not even play in key moments of the game (what does that say about him as a “franchise player” in year 6 he is not on the floor instead it is Pau and Lamar in the clutch).

    As for All Star game, agree with double standard. I love Durant but all the folks their especially Hollinger stating that Kobe is a ball hog well I did not see Durant with any assists and damn few rebounds too yet not a peep. I think the real turning point in terms of excitement was the Kobe dunk over Lebron followed by Kobe giving him the taunting pat on the ass. After that Lebron was in playoff mode which made it very exciting to say the least.

  14. I’m a freshman at USC majoring in print journalism, NBA writing in particular. Check out the highlights and lowlights from All-Star Weekend. http://www.neontommy.com/news/2011/02/highlights-and-lowlights-nba-all-star-weekend-2011

  15. @10 I thought the same thing after seeing his quote about Kobe not passing. Kobe shot roughly the same percentage from the floor (within 1.5%) had more rebounds and more assists than Amare in just one more minute on the floor. If you wanna talk selfish lets talk Durant or Lebron who played the most minutes of anyone.

    I also thought it was very interesting that they were double and triple teaming Kobe but at times it wasn’t a hard double. It was as if they knew it was a faux pas to double team in an All-star game but at the same time they knew if they didnt that Kobe would personally put the game out of reach. Oh and btw when they did double Kobe at the end of the game what did he do? He passed to the wide open Durant for the assist to seal the game.

  16. They definitely got the double standard going with the whole Kobe was trying for MVP, but everyone else was just effortlessly playing well. Folks were clearly trying out there, especially the East by mid-way through the 3rd. Everyone remember Durant getting hard fouled before the end of the 4th quarter IN AN ASG. lol.

    I watched the 1988, 1992, and 2004 playoff games before this one. Even when Jordan had 40 and the East were within reach, the West didn’t double team him on the perimeter, they of course tried to seal off the paint. First time I’ve ever seen a double team on a player in an ASG was this year. lol.

  17. Jeff has a new post up on Kobe’s MVP performance from last night:

    http://bit.ly/dKpTYJ