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West team too much down the stretch, defeats Heat-heavy East squad in NBA All-Star Game

A memorable All-Star weekend for the Heat didn’t exactly end well for the defending champions.

The East All-Stars lost to the West 143-138 on Sunday with several of the game’s best highlights coming at the expense of Heat stars. Chris Bosh was exposed defensively throughout the game and LeBron James lost his duel with Kobe Bryant in the fourth quarter.

On a bright note, no one was injured and the Heat’s playoff run resumes on Wednesday in Atlanta. Wade finished the game with 21 points and seven assists, James had 19 points, five assists and three rebounds and Chris Bosh scored six points.

Erik Spoelstra served as head coach of the East for the first time in his career and the Heat’s three stars all started. It was the first time three players from the same team have started an All-Star Game since 1990 when Magic Johnson, A.C. Green and James Worthy of the Lakers started for the West.

Chris Paul was named MVP, finishing with 20 points and 15 assists. Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder led all scorers with 30 points. Carmelo Anthony of the Knicks led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

In the end, a series of bloopers featuring Chris Bosh might be the only thing anyone remembers from the game.

It was a rough night for Bosh, who was elevated to starter by Spoelstra. Starting in place of injured guard Rajon Rondo, Bosh airballed his first two jump-shot attempts before being subbed out in the first quarter. He finished with three airballs in the first half.

After the second miss, a faint but distinctive wave of boos poured out from one section of the arena.

As if the airballs weren’t bad enough, Bosh was also embarrassed three times on the defensive end. First, Clippers point guard Chris Paul dribbled threw Bosh’s legs in a one-on-one situation. Later in the first half, Spurs guard Tony Parker did the exact same thing from almost the exact same spot on the floor.

“Chris had a tough matchup going and he got switched up a couple times, but that's the kind of stuff you do in the park and the backyard, you do it with your kids,” Wade said of dribbles put between Bosh’s legs.

With time waning in the second half and the East attempting to mount a comeback, Bosh was exposed on the perimeter for the third and final time by a crossover from Bryant, slashed to the basket for a layup to give the West a 134-126 lead.

Bryant’s move on Bosh came amid a defensive tour de force by the Lakers’ star in the fourth quarter Bryant seemed to make it is personal mission to shut down James in the final quarter, and he succeeded. James scored just two free throws in the final period, and Bryant was mad about giving up those points.

“I didn’t want him to score on me,” Bryant said. “I gave him two free throws down there. It was a great, great post move.”

At one point in the fourth quarter, Bryant pulled up close to James and defended him closely all the way down the court — 94 feet of theater. Bryant later blocked a 3-point attempt by James from the top of the key. James and Bryant exchanged words after the play.

“He didn’t say much,” Bryant said. “He said I fouled him. I said, ‘Yeah, I pretty much foul every play.’ I’m a ’80s baby. That’s what we do.”

Bryant then blocked one final shot from James on a driving play under the basket.

“He’s definitely one of the fiercest competitors in our game, so that’s what it’s all about,” James said.

Down 10 points with 2:32 to play, Spoelstra substituted Bosh out of the game in favor of Bulls center Joakim Noah. Despite the difficult night, it wasn’t a completely awful weekend for Bosh. On Saturday night, Bosh’s three-person team of WNBA player Swin Cash and NBA legend Dominique Wilkins won the Shooting Stars Challenge.

The game began promising for the Heat-laden East All-Stars. James’ first three field goals came off dunks, which created some much-needed energy in the Toyota Center. His first offering, an alley-oop from Wade, was perhaps the game’s best highlight. Wade served up the assist off the backboard and James, trailing the play, caught the ricochet in midair and powered home a powerful finish.

James’ next dunk came off a breakaway and the third was an athletic, one-handed finish on a lob from Carmelo Anthony. Anthony led James just a touch too far but he made up the distance by appearing to levitate above the court for a moment.

The All-Star warm-ups for this year’s game featured patches on the left breast that recognized player acheivements, similar in a concept to military decorations. James’ jacket had patches representing his nine All-Star selections, three MVP Awards, two All-Star MVP Awards, one Rookie of the Year Award and a scoring title.

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