Damian Lillard named MVP of NBA All-Star Game over Tyrese Haliburton

INDIANAPOLIS — Eastern Conference All-Star coach Doc Rivers made a coaching decision late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NBA All-Star Game.

With the East comfortably ahead and rolling toward a victory over the West, Rivers put starters Tyrese Haliburton and Damian Lillard back in the game with 4:37 remaining and left Jaylen Brown in the game to let the three players duel it out for MVP award.

They all had a case.

Brown finished with 36 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Lillard dropped in 39 points, making 11 3-pointers.

Haliburton had 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists.

"You've just got to keep shooting the ball. I think, in a game like this, you know it's going to be pretty loose, and you're going to get your opportunities. Being in the starting lineup, I knew I'd play longer stretches, get more minutes," Lillard said. "I just told myself I'm going to be aggressive, and I'm going to keep firing. I saw a couple go in. After that, it was just like I'm going after it. So that was it."

Lillard was the star of All-Star Weekend. He won 3-point contest for the second consecutive time Saturday and claimed the MVP Sunday, becoming just the second player since Michael Jordan to win a Saturday event and MVP in the same year.

And by the time the East topped the West 211-186 – and MVP voters submitted and then resubmitted their votes on deadline – Lillard earned his first NBA All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP award.

"Any time you're mentioned in the same category as Mike, it's an honor, and it's a major accomplishment, even if it's All-Star Weekend," Lillard said. "If it was that simple, more people would have done it since 1988. So that's a major compliment for me to be mentioned in the same conversation as far as that."

NBA All-Star Game MVP Damian Lillard of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates following his team’s victory against the Western Conference.
NBA All-Star Game MVP Damian Lillard of the Milwaukee Bucks celebrates following his team’s victory against the Western Conference.

It was not a popular decision with Indiana Pacers fans booing the decision. Controversy usually doesn't accompany All-Star MVP decisions but it did when when the Pacers star was snubbed in the host city. It was a close vote: Lillard received seven of 12 votes; Haliburton received the other five.

For a while, it looked like Haliburton would win the award. He opened the game by making his first five 3-pointers in the first 3½ minutes of the game and was 7-for-9 on 3s through two quarters, and when he made a 3 that made the East the first team to reach 200 points in a All-Star Game and followed that up with another 3 and a dunk, Haliburton seemed like the ideal MVP.

"I was just going to keep shooting until I missed," said Haliburton who is managing a strained left hamstring. "Having fun playing basketball. I didn't know how many minutes I was going to play, didn't know how my leg would feel. I felt good today, even after the one-leg dunk. So that's positive for me."

Brown made a late run, scoring 24 points in the second half.

But it was Lillard who walked away with the award, closing out the game with two 3-pointers including the final shot of the game from halfcourt – his second halfcourt make of the game.

Lillard scored nine points in the first quarter, 13 in the second, 11 in the third and six in the fourth.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Damian Lillard named MVP of 2024 NBA All-Star Game