With all the preliminary events and weekend festivities out of the way, all that’s left for All-Star Weekend is the game itself. The Eastern and Western Conferences will meet for the 62nd time in NBA history in Houston today. Several East players have fond memories of Houston, as it served as the host city for the 2006 game that saw the East claim victory over the West 122-120.
“I had a pretty good experience the first time around, looking for the same thing this time,” East starter Dwyane Wade said, according to ESPN.com.
However, this season the West team is considered the favorite by three points despite the East squad starting all three of the Miami Heat’s three biggest stars, who also happen to be reigning NBA champions.
LeBron James is coming into the game playing some of the best basketball of his career, as he has scored at least 30 points and has shot over 55% from the field in the last seven games.
“I’m a better player. At that point in time, I wasn’t a complete basketball player. I couldn’t shoot as well as I can now, I never posted up back then,” James said. “More games, more playoff games, more knowledge. You continue to learn each and every day, it makes you a better player. That’s what you want, to become a better player. That’s what I want. I want to be the greatest of all-time. I try to do whatever it takes to get me in that position.”
The East will be without Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo, who tore his ACL, but will have Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony, who will start despite suffering a right arm contusion on Wednesday. Kevin Garnett will round out the starting five for the East, which includes Chris Bosh, James and Wade.
The Western Conference’s starting five is, of course, just as talented, but slightly younger with Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and the elder statesman Kobe Bryant. Howard is still dealing with shoulder problems and may play limited minutes, but then again, the All-Star game is not really about playing big minutes. Arguably, the reserves will impact the game as much or more than the starters and this is where the West should have the advantage.
With James Harden, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Russell Westbrook, David Lee, Zach Randolph, and LaMarcus Aldridge coming off the bench, the West has a nice blend of veteran leadership, youthful talent, sharp shooters and strong big men. They seem to stack up favorably against East reserves Kyrie Irving, Jrue Holiday, Tyson Chandler, Joakim Noah, Luol Deng and Paul George, all of whom, except Deng, are making their first All-Star appearance. The added experience should give the West the edge.
And let’s not forget that the game is in Houston, giving the West home court advantage, which may not be huge in the All-Star game, but when Harden is in the game, expect the crowd to be siding with the West just like the odds makers are.
And we should too. The East does have some of the best scorers in the game and maybe the hottest player in the league in James, but the West has a more experienced and complete team, which will win the day. Take the West to cover -3 and earn the win.