Team LeBron beats Team Giannis in feisty NBA All-Star Game

Feb. 17 (UPI) — Under the new scoring format intended to honor the late Kobe Bryant and increase intensity between opponents, Team LeBron beat Team Giannis 157-155 in the 69th annual NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night at the United Center in Chicago.

Kawhi Leonard was named the first recipient of the Kobe Bryant All-Star MVP Award after scoring a game-high 30 points on 11-of-18 shooting. He made eight 3-pointers in the game, finishing one shy of the All-Star Game record set in 2016 by Paul George.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James recorded 23 points, six assists and five rebounds. Teammate Anthony Davis, who sank the game-winning free throw in the fourth quarter, had 20 points and nine rebounds.

“It felt like playing in the league in a playoff game,” Davis said. “It’s a great competition and it’s 24 players who go out and compete at a very high level.

“And to do it in front of a crowd like this, with a new format that we were a little skeptical of, we didn’t know how it was going to go. But everyone at the end of the day, they loved it. It brings back the competition, so it was great.”

Giannis Antetokounmpo led his team with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Kemba Walker finished with 23 points on 9-of-18 shooting, while Joel Embiid had 22 points and 10 rebounds.

The league unveiled the new All-Star Game format last month, turning every quarter into a mini-game for charity before an untimed fourth quarter with a final target score to decide the winner.

On Sunday night, the winning team needed to reach 157 points after Team Giannis took a 133-124 cumulative lead through the first three quarters. Under the new format, the target score was determined by adding 24 to the leading team’s point total (133), a nod to the No. 24 jersey Bryant wore during his 20-year career with the Lakers.

In addition to the new format, both teams honored Bryant and his 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, with universal jersey numbers following last month’s helicopter crash that killed them and seven others. Team LeBron wore Gianna’s No. 2, and Team Giannis wore Bryant’s No. 24.

Team LeBron won the first quarter 53-41, and Team Giannis won the second quarter 51-30. The teams tied 41-41 in the third quarter.

The highest-scoring team in each quarter received $100,000 for its designated charity, with the winning team earning $200,000. Since the third quarter ended in a tie, that $100,000 was carried over into the fourth quarter.

In total, Team LeBron, playing for Chicago Scholars, earned $400,000, and Team Giannis generated $100,000 for After School Matters. Both of the Chicago-based organizations help teens from under-resourced communities in a variety of ways, including teaching communication and leadership skills.

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