LOS ANGELES -- The 67th NBA all-star ended with both teams clamping down on defense.
No surprise there.
But defense in the first quarter?
Well, it wasn’t playoff-caliber, but it was definitely a step in the right direction if you’re a fan of defense.
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In the end, Team LeBron squeaked put a 148-145 win over Team Steph.
LeBron James led all players with 29 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists.
Kyrie Irving had 13 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the winners, while Al Horford tallied six points and five rebounds for Team Steph.
The signs that this was a different kind of All-Star Game were apparent early on.
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In the first quarter, Team LeBron’s Kemba Walker went in for what he thought would be an easy lay-up, only for Giannis Antetokounmpo to swat it out of bounds with authority.
Soon after, Antetokounmpo went up for a seemingly uncontested dunk only for Russell Westbrook to foul him on the shot.
For those tuning into the 67th NBA All-Star Game, all of this seemed, well, foreign.
Defense in All-Star Games?
Maybe the final couple of minutes of play, but in the first quarter?
Of course there were the usual, everyone-has-an-EZ pass-into-the-lane stretches defensively by both teams.
With the new format that involves a mix of East and West players on both teams, has been praised as a positive by the players.
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“I like it,” Oklahoma City’s Paul George said prior to the game. “A little mix-up, a little clash of East and West on different sides. I like the little mix-up we have.”
San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who played for Team LeBron, echoed similar sentiments.
“I feel like anytime that you have the mixture that we have and the guys that might want to play against guys they've never played against, it's going to make the game better,” Aldridge said.
And then there’s the money aspect to think about.
The winning team would get $350,000 to the charity chosen by the team captain, while the losing team would get $150,000 to the charity chosen by the captain of the losing team.
“Anytime you add money to the pot, it's definitely going to motivate guys for sure,” Aldridge said.
The prevailing thought was more traditional style of basketball involving more effort defensively and less of the isolation, one-on-one play with matador defense being the rule and not the exception, was intended to spice up an all-star game format that had been a bit of a snooze fest in recent years.
Team LeBron spent most of the first half trailing, but regained the lead briefly in the third quarter and again late in the quarter behind the red-hot shooting of Bradley Beal.
But Team Steph regained the lead in the final minute of the quarter, 112-109, behind a 3-pointer by Steph Curry which would be the last points scored in the third.