LOS ANGELES — LeBron James nearly brought the East team back in the All-Star game. In the end, though, he and his Miami Heat buddies couldn't keep Kobe Bryant and the West from victory.
James had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists in the 148-143 loss Sunday night at Staples Center. The East was loaded with James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of the Heat, along with the Boston quartet of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo.
But they never managed more than a four-point lead, and that came at the start of the game. Amare Stoudemire of the Knicks dunked off a feed from James and followed with a layup off another James assist for the first two baskets.
The East fell behind by 17 points going into the fourth quarter, when they outscored the West 43-31, helped by James' 14 points.
"Man, I'm glad he's coming back home with me," Wade said. "I know he can do it. He's a freight train when he gets going. Not too many people want to get in his way. He dominates games."
James returned two minutes into the fourth and soon scored on a driving layup. He made three straight free throws to get his team within 11. He was especially dominant over the final 5:41, scoring five in a row to cut the East's deficit to nine.
James made two free throws that left the East trailing by two with 2½ minutes to go. But Kevin Durant hit a 3-pointer for the West. James tried again, driving to the basket for another score that had his team down by two. But they never got any closer.
"We were definitely rooting him on," Allen said. "When he started attacking, that's when the tide turned in our favor."
Wade, who finished with 14 points, twisted his right ankle during the game, something that first happened against Boston before the All-Star break.
"I just rolled it a little bit," he said. "I've got a strong ankle, so I'm not worried too much."
Bosh had 14 points. Allen finished with 12 points and Garnett four, while Pierce and Rondo had six points each.
Boston and Miami will start the second half as the East's top two teams, but Bosh said it wasn't weird playing with his rivals.
"We take breaks from that," he said. "We're competitive, everybody's competitive, but we don't carry that competitiveness with us off the court. Guys just want to relax, crack some jokes and have a good time."
Garnett cheered harder than anyone as James singlehandedly tried to secure a win. Allen blamed his team for being too passive in the early going.
"Everybody kind of eased into it," he said. "That's cool, when you're playing in a pickup game or All-Star game, but when you want to make a statement, we can't do that for our own team."
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who led the West with 37 points and 14 rebounds, was named MVP in front of his local fans.
"I wish the East would've won, then my teammate with the triple-double would've stole (the MVP)," Wade said. "But he deserved it."
Stoudemire also had 29 points.
"It got competitive during the second half," he said. "We wanted to win, started off a little slow, those guys scored about 300 points. Defense was, the lack of, but we had fun. That's the most important thing."
Boston coach Doc Rivers, who oversaw the East, put his Celtics stars into the game together at one point, drawing hearty boos.
"Oh, I thought that was beautiful," he said. "The fact that it was in L.A., you knew they would not get a rousing ovation. But that was fine. I think our guys expected it and it was fun. Our guys got a good laugh out of it."
In a game that always features more offense than defense, Allen got into Bryant on a couple of possessions.
"You kind of expect it," Rivers said. "Kobe had it going, to say the least. At that point, when we put them in, whoever came in would have tried to guard him."