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The Journal Gazette

Monday, February 18, 2019 1:00 am

Durant awarded MVP as Team LeBron rallies

TIM REYNOLDS | Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – LeBron James was trading lob passes with Dwyane Wade again, one last time. Lobs from Kyrie Irving once again, too. And after making a stepback 3-pointer late, he stared down Joel Embiid to send a message without saying a word.

Oh, this mattered.

Team LeBron, down by 20 in the second half, finally got firing and went on to beat Team Giannis 178-164 in the All-Star Game on Sunday night. MVP Kevin Durant scored 31 points for Team LeBron, the one that James drafted and led to victory in the captain's-choice format for a second consecutive season. Klay Thompson scored 20, and James and Kawhi Leonard each scored 19 for the winners.

Giannis Antetokounmpo led everybody with 38 points for the club he drafted. Paul George and Khris Middleton each scored 20 points for Team Giannis, which got 17 apiece from Stephen Curry and Russell Westbrook.

Durant is now a two-time MVP, also winning it back in 2012. He lauded Charlotte for the weekend.

“Thanks for the hospitality,” he said. “It was an amazing weekend. Glad we capped it off with a 'W.'”

The highlights, as would be expected, were absurdly good, time and again.

Curry slammed the ball off the floor on a first-half fast break and watched it ricochet toward the rim with an apex that flirted with the top of the backboard. Too high for most humans – but Antetokounmpo isn't most humans. The freakishly long Greek star slammed Curry's unconventional alley-oop pass home, with both benches reacting in disbelief.

And the All-Star farewells for Miami's Wade and Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki – the adds to the game by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, in honor of their career bodies of work – were festive, as everyone wanted.