The Final Countdown: The All-Star Game In-Depth

Scott McGrathCorrespondent IApril 3, 2017

That's right. The culmination of the All-Star Weekend has come with the All-Star Game itself. Filled with ups and downs for all players, it was finally time to have one last battle before heading back to the regular season.

To go over this incredible game will be difficult, so it will be slightly unorthodox. This article will feature a quarterly summary that will be fairly in-depth and lengthy. So, to start, of course it is with the first quarter.

The East All-Stars jumped quickly to a seven-point lead in just three minutes led by Dwyane Wade. Most of the West looked cold through the first few minutes with Kobe Bryant only making one of his first few shots. Chris Paul for the West had some amazing passes, but the players on the receiving end like Yao Ming, Amare Stoudemire, and Tim Duncan are not deep shooters.

Around five minutes in, though, the West began to pick it up. Off a turnover, Kobe Bryant had an easy slam following a Chris Paul feed, and the defense began to lock up a bit for the West, with two or three steals in under a minute.

It was an interesting breath of fresh air to see a lot of defense in the beginning of the game. Ordinarily, the All-Star games have been high-flying and high-scoring. But, at the beginning of this game, not only was there high scoring, there were plenty of great defensive efforts.

Following the first break, substitutions were made bringing in other players such as Devin Harris, Paul Pierce, and Joe Johnson as well as Dirk Nowitzki and Shaquille O'Neal, who scored on their first possession.

After these subs, the solid defensive effort by the West continued as they knocked down the lead to three. Following a steal and an assist from Paul, Brandon Roy came in who dished it to Bryant for a dunk.

After losing the whole game, the West took their first leading with three minutes left in the first quarter at 21-20, a seemingly low-scoring game thus far. And following another timeout, the West came out firing on all cylinders culminating in a Shaquille O'Neal dunk and outlet assist to Tony Parker.

At the end of the first quarter, the West had capped a comeback and were leading by seven points, 34-27. Inspired by cognizant defense, the West were frequently able to make offense out of these defensive plays.

As the second quarter commenced, the West continued to the defense and were on a 32-9 run since the first quarter before the East began to pick it up again. However, Dirk Nowitzki lit up the beginning of this quarter with a quick lay-up, three, and a couple free throws giving the West an 11-point lead.

Paul Pierce, however, proved to be the offensive spark for the East, quickly making a lay-up and a couple free throws as well. After another timeout three minutes in, the East made a quick surge cutting the lead down to three, led again by Paul Pierce.

The game stayed pretty even from there until the five-minute mark with the West leading by four. Finally, after two straight scores by Mo Williams, the East had tied the game up. From there, the game once again became a track meet. Scoring almost every 10 seconds, there were flashy dunks, great passes, and lightning quick steals.

Finally, a timeout was taken with three minutes left to give some of the players a "breather" and to give Bill Russell a small birthday celebration. After some fancy plays by Chris Paul and sweet shots by LeBron James, the first half concluded with the West still holding a five-point lead, 72-67.

Oddly enough, even with more defense than usual in an All-Star Game, it was still high scoring, accumulating almost 140 total points. After a performance by John Legend, the game resumed.

After some magical ball-handling by both Chris Paul and LeBron James, the first break was taken six minutes into the third quarter with the West taking a sizable lead of 12 points. Following the timeout, O'Neal came back in and after trying to crossover Dwight Howard got an assist to Chris Paul. Shaq then came down the court, passed the ball to Paul through Howard's legs, and got a dunk from Paul.

Before the next break with two minutes left in the third quarter, Shaquille O'Neal took over. Getting over four dunks in just three minutes, he was simply "shaqtastic." At this break, the West held a commanding 20-point lead at 109-89.

In the final two minutes of the quarter, everyone went cold, scoring a combined three points with the score at 110-91. The "Hack-a-Shaq" strategy came back with Shaq getting intentionally fouled twice when trying to shoot. This just shows how dominant O'Neal was in the past few minutes before.

At the first break of the fourth quarter, four minutes in, the cold shooting continued. All players were misfiring for a few minutes, until finally, everything started to click. The fast-pace scoring picked up again, and the timeout took place after Dirk Nowitzki hit a nice turn-around "J" making the score 120-101, West.

At the next break with six minutes left, LeBron James was brought back in to provide an offensive boost for the team. And that is precisely what he did. On James' back, the East brought the lead down from 19 to 16 at 124-108.

However, the hot hand of Kobe Bryant hit two quick shots and the East seemingly conceded at that point with Dwight Howard missing a deep two and the whole team being fairly sloppy with the ball. However, Howard redeemed himself by making a similar shot shortly thereafter.

There was a final timeout taken with two minutes left in the fourth quarter. The West were in total control leading by 22, 136-114. However, the players were still having fun. Kobe Bryant, going-one-on one with Dwight Howard, lost the ball to him. However, Howard wanting the opportunity against Bryant, lost the ball out of bounds, which led to some friendly jabbering amongst the two.

The final few minutes were more of an offensive showcase for the players. Everyone cleared the lane for LeBron James to preview his dunking skills after he announced he will be in the contest next year. After several dunks by players of both sides, the game finally came to an end with the West simply dominating in the win, 146-119.

After the game, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant were named Co-MVPs. O'Neal put up 17 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists in just 11 minutes. Bryant added 27 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals in 27 minutes. Both were extremely dominant in the game.

After an exciting night and weekend, it's finally back to the regular season. After all this fun, it's back to the real deal for the final playoff surge. Here we go!


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