CHICAGO — Kobe Bryant’s presence was everywhere at the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.
And what better way to honor Bryant and his Mamba Mentality than by playing to win in the All-Star Game.
That’s what happened on Sunday with the contest on the line. Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 in the 69th version of the NBA All-Star Game.
Using an untimed fourth quarter with a targeted score to determine the winner in a new format that produced entertaining drama, Team LeBron outscored Team Giannis 33-22 in the final quarter for the victory.
The targeted score was 157 — Team Giannis’ 133 points after three quarters plus 24 (a tribute to one of Kobe Bryant’s jersey numbers). Team LeBron had 124 points after three quarters meaning it needed to score 33 points before Team Giannis scored 24 in the final quarter.
Team LeBron pulled it off. It came down to a next-basket-wins situation, and Chicago native Anthony Davis’ second free throw — he missed the first — secured the victory.
Kawhi Leonard led Team LeBron with 30 points, seven rebounds and four assists, and LeBron James had 23 points, five rebounds and six assists. Chris Paul added 23 points and six assists for Team LeBron.
Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team with 25 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Joel Embiid had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Team Giannis.
And make no mistake, with the NBA renaming the All-Star MVP trophy the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award, players wanted to win it this year.
The game turned into a competitive affair down the stretch. Team Giannis clung to a 144-141 with both teams locked in on defending. Toronto’s Kyle Lowry even took a charge — he will take one anywhere, anytime — on the Los Angeles Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard.
Players complained about calls, and the refs even went to the video monitor to review a play when Team LeBron coach Frank Vogel challenged a call on the floor. Refs also reversed a goaltending call that would’ve put Team LeBron one point from victory. James Harden was called for an offensive foul just before making a 3-pointer that would have given Team LeBron the win.
Harden tied at 146-146 with a corner three.
The NBA continues to tinker with its All-Star format. In 2018, the league went away from East vs. West and had the player with most votes from each conference serve as a captain and pick squads playground style regardless of conference.
And this year, the league used the new scoring format. The game score was reset after the first and second quarters, and each quarter was worth $100,000 to the winning team’s selected local charity.
After the third quarter, the scores from the previous quarters were added, and in the fourth, they played to a target score that was the leading team’s total score plus 24. The first team to reach the targeted score first was the winner, earning an additional $200,000 for its charity.
Team LeBron won the first quarter 53-41, Team Giannis took the second quarter 51-30, and it was tied 41-41 in the third.
The money for charity created some excitement, too. Both teams called timeouts, ran plays and used strategy to try and win the third quarter.
Team LeBron played for Chicago Scholars, “a nonprofit leadership development organization that empowers academically ambitious students from under-resourced communities to complete college and become the next generation of leaders.” Team Giannis played for After School Matters, “a nonprofit organization that provides life-changing after-school and summer program opportunities to nearly 19,000 Chicago teenagers each year.”
Follow Jeff Zillgitt on Twitter @JeffZillgitt.