The moments that mattered from the 2018 NBA All-Star Game

LOS ANGELES — Maybe we didn’t get a televised draft, but we did get a (mostly) legitimately competitive All-Star Game at Staples Center on Sunday. The 2018 edition of the game featured an evident uptick in energy (and even some intermittent defensive intensity!), remained close throughout and went down to the final seconds, with LeBron James and Kevin Durant trapping Stephen Curry at the 3-point arc to prevent one last shot from getting away, and helping Team LeBron to come away with a 148-145 win, with James (29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists, the go-ahead layup with 34 seconds left) winning his third All-Star Game MVP award.

Scroll to continue with content

Ultimately, though, the NBA All-Star Game is never really about the final score; it’s about the moments that stand out, for better or for worse. Here, then, are the moments that mattered in the 2018 NBA All-Star Game.

LeBron James was very, very happy to pull out the win in the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. (AP)
LeBron James was very, very happy to pull out the win in the 2018 NBA All-Star Game. (AP)

C.R.E.A.M.: When the question is, “How do we crank up the level of competition?” the answer is, “Dig deep into your pockets, gentlemen.”

Money well spent, right?

Killing me softly with this song: May we never speak of Fergie’s rendition of the national anthem again.

• EXCEPTION! Unless we’re going to talk about Draymond Green’s immediate physical response to it …

… or Stephen Curry’s mid-game online reaction:

Best teammate: Shouts out to Anthony Davis.

Best former teammates (tied): Good job making up, guys. All-Star Weekend is not about beef. It is about love.

Best reason to immediately second-guess the whole “everybody try harder” thing: Did anyone else’s life flash before his eyes when LeBron James tried to basically jump over Joel Embiid?

Bragging rights, cash and charitable contributions are great, guys. But let’s be safe out there. Goodness.

DNP-Thibs: Jimmy Butler traveled all the way from Minnesota to California, only to fall ill (cough) and miss the whole dang All-Star Game.

“Rest. I have to rest,” Butler said after the game. “I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt his legs weren’t there,” Mike D’Antoni said during his post-game press conference. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

I mean, it’s hard to blame him. Got to maximize the no-Tom-Thibodeau time as much as you can.

Best bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce-bounce: Our first highlight of the evening came courtesy of LeBron, hooking up AD with a bounce-pass alley-oop:

Best early reminder that, no, seriously, they’re going to try on defense this year: Don’t be so mean to Kemba Walker, Giannis Antetokounmpo:

I’m still not entirely sure whether that was a goaltend, but I can understand why they called it one. Just not very nice, Giannis. C’mon, now.

Best reminders that LeBron is both 15 years deep and superhuman:

“I don’t really take it as, a young guy, OK, I need to show him that I’m still able to do this,” James said after the game. “I need to continue to show myself, you know, because very night I step on the floor I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level.”

Mission accomplished, LeBron.

OK, maybe some of All-Star Weekend is about beef:

Hey, Joel Embiid and Russell Westbrook. You guys have met before, haven’t you?

JoJo said it was all good:

Sure thing, dude. Totally.

STRATEGERY! With Team LeBron down two possessions in the final minute of the first half, all of a sudden, coach Dwane Casey decided to dial up some backcourt pressure!

Half-court traps in the All-Star Game. Will wonders never cease!

• STRATEGERY (PART TWO)!: Check out your man MDA, out here with the Steve Kerr zings:

The importance of a balanced diet: If you had any question as to whether Steph was locked in after a 1-for-9 first half, he answered them immediately upon coming out for the third quarter:

Not-so-friendly fire: REMINDER: James Harden is on your team, Giannis!

Don’t call it a … well, actually, fine, you can call it a comeback if you want: After a rough showing in Saturday night’s Verizon Slam Dunk contest, Indiana Pacers guard Victor Oladipo got a chance to throw down an uncontested runout dunk … and this time, he nailed it:

The lesson: if you don’t take your eyes off the ball …

Victor Oladipo watches it all the way home. (Getty)
Victor Oladipo watches it all the way home. (Getty)

… good things can happen.

Snub-no’s: Shouts out to Damian Lillard, who shot flames off the Team Steph bench, scoring a team-high-tying 21 points in 21 minutes of work:

(Anti-shouts, though, to Dame not getting another look down the stretch, when Team Steph coughed up a 13-point lead in the final 6:36. We’re sure that D’Antoni will spend the night tossing and turning over that blunder!)

Hey, remember how cool the All-Star Game can be? The lineup that won the game in the final five minutes: LeBron, Durant, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and Russell Westbrook. Not bad!

Memories of the way we were: When Team LeBron needed buckets, it leaned on two familiar pairings — Kyrie-to-LeBron …

… and KD-to-Russ:

The nostalgia is strong, my friends.

“[Playing with Irving again] was phenomenal. It was phenomenal,” James said after the game. “Any time you’re able to get back and play with one of your old teammates, as great as he is, we all know that — the flashiness, the ball-handling, the ability to shoot — it was just great to get back on the floor with hi. It was a great moment, for sure.”

It’s a mismatch, but not the way you think: Team LeBron downsized down the stretch and tried to isolate different scorers against the 7-foot Embiid in space. Joel acquitted himself really, really well:

The official take — and man, is it a hot one: Joel Embiid (19 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, one assist, one steal in 20 minutes) is gooooooood.

May the basketball gods continue to smile on us as they have this season and keep him healthy for a good, long while.

They really, actually, honest-to-God played defense! One-possession game, needing to shut down the 3-point line, Team LeBron unleashed hell, and it worked:

Pre-game comments from players and the league aside, if we’re being honest, I thought the ship had long since sailed on the days of actual defense being played in the All-Star Game. Color me pleasantly surprised that I was wrong.

“I thought tonight was a great one,” Casey said after the game. “My hat’s off to LeBron and KD and all the guys that stepped up, and they reiterated exactly what we talked about after said, ‘Hey, let’s change the narrative. Let’s make sure we change how people look at the NBA All-Star Game.'”

Whether this really sets a new standard for the future or not remains to be seen, but even if it doesn’t, seeing it for this one night was pretty cool.

Word to Barry Horowitz: After a game-icing stop like that, KD, you deserve a bit of self-praise:

Good work all around, gang. Safe travels home, and we’ll see you for the last two months of the regular season, which we hope are at least as much fun as the last few minutes of Sunday’s showcase.

More NBA coverage:

– – – – – – –

Dan Devine is a writer and editor for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

What to Read Next