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East vs. West: Preview, Analysis and Predictions for 2013 NBA All Star Game

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East vs. West: Preview, Analysis and Predictions for 2013 NBA All Star Game
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The playground battle of the season goes down on Sunday as the NBA's best take on each other. Of course, I'm talking about this year's NBA All-Star Game.

A high-scoring match for the ages will occur to the delight of fans in a fully-packed Toyota Center, with steals and dunks aplenty along with some pretty jump shots. Fans expecting defense will be disappointed, as this game is all about the scoring.

LeBron James and Kevin Durant are sure to go toe-to-toe in yet another rematch of last year's NBA Finals. Kobe Bryant will be playing in his record 15th All-Star Game, and his excellent scoring abilities will be in full force.

Moreover, we could be seeing Kevin Garnett's final All-Star appearance, so fans would definitely be wise to tune into this game and not just its preceding events.

 

Time: Sunday, Feb. 17, 8 p.m. EST

TV: TNT

Betting Line: Not available as of Friday, Feb. 15, 10:17 a.m. EST

 

Key Storyline: Can East's Balanced Roster Pull Off An Upset?

The Western Conference has won three of the past four years, and they are definitely the better roster on paper in 2013. The team is stacked with stars who can score from top to bottom, and their run-and-gun game could be enough to carry the West to a third straight All-Star victory.

The Eastern Conference squad is not as stacked. Though a good number of star players are present, the East has gone with a more balanced approach.

Rather than stack itself with scoring machines, defense-first players like Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah and even Paul George are present. Of the team's 12 players, half are appearing in their first All-Star Game.

Thus, the question presents itself: In a game defined by offense, will the Eastern Conference be able to keep up? More importantly, will the presence of defensive players make a difference in slowing down the West?

The stage is set for a great game, one that fans would be foolish not to watch for at least a few minutes.

 

Key Matchup: LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

USA TODAY Sports

This game is all about offense, and both of these players bring plenty of it to the table. The reigning MVP in James is probably having the best season of his career but not by blowing everyone else out of the water.

Rather, James has cemented his status as the NBA's best all-around player. He is averaging 27.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 1.7 steals per game and is also shooting a career-best 56.5 percent from the field and 42 percent from long range.

James has also recently set the record for consecutive games with at least 30 points, while shooting 60 percent or better from the field. In the All-Star Game, with tough defense on the back burner, fans should expect him to have a similar performance.

Slowing down James just a little bit could swing the game in the West's favor...chart via nba.com

This means that Kevin Durant could also be in for a great scoring performance. The star and leader of the Oklahoma City Thunder is once again leading the league in scoring, averaging 29.2 points per game, and he has become an even greater offensive threat this season.

Not only is he leading the league in scoring, but Durant is also shooting a career-best 52 percent from the field and 43 percent from long range. He isn't as much of a threat as James, but one thing is certain: He is definitely a better scorer.

Durant is a pure scorer who could easily torch the East's defensive squad...chart via nba.com

Thus, expect both men to be shooting the lights out on Sunday night. James is going to be on the receiving end of many dunks but could also be using his fine jumper. Durant is definitely going to be using his jumper quite a bit, but don't count him out when it comes to driving the lane for a layup.

Whichever man can score points more efficiently will be on the winning side, and this is truly anyone's game.

 

X-Factor: Russell Westbrook

USA TODAY Sports

The winner of this game will be the team that has the better spark, and the Western Conference already has a key advantage in that department. Russell Westbrook has averaged 22.6 points, 8.1 assists and even 5.1 rebounds per game this season. Add in his 1.9 steals per contest, and Westbrook could very well be the best scoring point guard in the league.

In the All-Star Game, he won't need to pass or play defense.

All that the West needs him to do is score points, and he can do that without a problem. Over his last five games, the former UCLA Bruin has posted 22.2 points, while shooting a highly respectable 48 percent from the field and an unbelievable 42 percent from downtown.

There is no telling how many points he will score on Sunday. The defensive Eastern Conference could hold him to 10, or he could fight past any type of coverage and explode for over 20 points off the bench.

Either way, slowing down Westbrook is going to be one of the East's keys to victory. If he can be taken out of the game just a little bit, then the East will have a fighting chance.

If he is making baskets left and right, however, it is a near-certainty the West will win yet again.

 

Predicted Starting Lineups

East

PG: Jrue Holiday

SG: Dwyane Wade

SF: LeBron James

PF: Carmelo Anthony

C: Kevin Garnett

 

West

PG: Chris Paul

SG: Kobe Bryant

SF: Kevin Durant

PF: Blake Griffin

C: Dwight Howard

 

Prediction

The Eastern Conference's depth and defensive aspects are respectable, but that is not what the All-Star Game is about. It is all about who can score more points most effectively, and that is where the Western Conference has the upper hand.

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Thus, by the final buzzer on Sunday night, the West will have come away with a third consecutive All-Star Game victory. Despite a LeBron James triple-double, the East's lack of a solid spark combined with their inability to keep up with the faster Western Conference squad will result in defeat.

Kobe Bryant will be in Mamba Mode from start to finish and do everything from sink jumpers to throw down dunks with authority. Kevin Durant will lead the team in scoring, while Chris Paul and Blake Griffin bring their own dose of Lob City to Houston.

Off the bench, Russell Westbrook will score in double figures and be absolutely electrifying from start to finish—be it making a trick shot or dunking the ball with ferocity.

The game belongs to the West, and despite a close final score, that team will have controlled the action from start to finish.

Western Conference 149, Eastern Conference 144

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