It was a night of stars and a fantastic evening for the NBA, but the league's most dominant figure relegated himself to the background. This was a guard's show and James, Durant, Bryant, Wade and Amar'e Stoudemire stole the show in a 148-143 Western Conference win at the 2011 All Star Game in Los Angeles.
Howard finished with five points and seven rebounds. He had just one true post play run for him and was not very active on either side of the ball. Statistically it was his worst All-Star Game performance and far from his 16.5 points per game and 8.8 rebounds per game. This game was not about him that is for sure.
Bryant set the tone early with a couple of hard drives tot he basket and some late-90's age dunks that showed Bryant still had some hop in his step. He scored 37 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead all scorers. LeBron James and Amar'e Stoudemire were a big part of the East's comeback to cut the lead down to four late in the game. James and Stoudemire each score 29 points. But James posted a triple double with 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Kevin Durant was the guy finishing things up. If it were not for early voting and home court advantage, Durant likely would have been the MVP of this game. He scored 34 points.
It was a fantastically entertaining game. And a great showcase for the NBA.
I am sure a lot of Magic fans were disappointed with Howard's showing tonight. I am sure we will hear why Howard kind of went to the background later -- possibly because he had one wild night Friday if you believe certain reports or possibly because he was not feeling good or (most likely) he was a center playing in a guard's game.
Howard knows he has a lot riding on his shoulders the rest of this season. So taking a step back during this exhibition game is probably a good thing. His risk for injury was pretty minimal -- he would not roll an ankle like Dwyane Wade did. And with no plays being run for him and Stoudemire doing a lot of the dirty work Howard usually does in these games, it was fine watching him just go through his paces.
He had a nice alley-oop from Stoudemire in the first quarter and let his presence be known there. But otherwise it was a nice night off for Howard. And I would think he took it knowing how much his team relies upon him the rest of this season. He is saving those legs for the final push for the Magic.
Next year, will be his year in the All-Star Game on his home court.