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LeBron James scores 22 points in East's 163-155 victory over West

NEW ORLEANS -- As expected, the night ended earlier than usual for Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.

He left Sunday's NBA All-Star Game with 5 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Eastern Conference All-Stars defeated the West, 163-155, but Wade fulfilled his duty to the fans by scoring 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting in 11 minutes. Wade all along said he would take in the festivities from the sideline instead of on the court.

At this point in his career, rest is more important than competing in a game that has no bearing on the Heat's hopes of winning their third straight title. No, he left the acrobatic dunks to the younger generation.

Most of the high-flying plays from the East backcourt came from the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kyrie Irving, who led the East with 31 points. Wade spent most of his time on the bench, watching the show.

The game served as opportunity to recover from missing the past two games because of a migraine and foot soreness. Wade has missed 15 games this season, with all but two for injury-related reasons.

Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant were the stars for the West. Griffin was the early crowd-pleaser, providing the fans to a dunk show in the first half. The focus eventually shifted to Durant, the leading candidate for the regular-season most valuable player of the year award.

Durant and Griffin each finished with 38 points. Carmelo Anthony scored 30 points for the East, hitting a record eight 3-pointers. LeBron James finished with 22 points and seven assists.

Griffin defends LeBron

With most questioning his decision to skip the NBA's slam dunk contest, James has the support of at least one of the game's top dunkers.

Griffin said he could understand why James has chosen not to participate in the event. Griffin won the contest in 2011, but has yet to return to the field.

"It would be great for basketball but out of anybody, I get it," Griffin said. "If you don't want to do the dunk contest, I get it. It's a time where guys are trying to get rest. And a guy who's played in the Finals the last three years, playing late into June and playing USA Basketball and heavy minutes for his team, you need all the rest you can get."

James has repeatedly said he has no interest in competing. Griffin also appeared headed that way.

"It just needs to be the right time and the right opportunity," Griffin said. "It doesn't need to change or they don't need to put a whole lot of this or that in there. It's just one of those things if I feel like it's a good year and if I'm healthy enough, I'll consider it."

Harden agrees with Durant

Last September Durant made news by saying Houston Rockets guard James Harden belonged on SI.com's list of top 10 players.

Durant said Harden should have been ahead of the Heat's Dwyane Wade. And Harden agreed when asked about the subject.

"It is what it is," Harden said. "(Durant) knows what he's talking about."

Later, Harden refused to single out Wade, saying he just felt he belonged on the list somewhere.

"I don't even know who was on the list," Harden said. "I don't really care about that list. I go out there and play basketball and do my best. I'll let you guys talk about that."

Kobe downplays Mount Rushmore remark

Last week James caused a stir when naming the top four players in league history, listing Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Oscar Robertson.

A notable omission from James' "Mount Rushmore" was Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who has won more titles than Robertson and Bird combined.

"Mount Rushmore," Bryant said. "You've got to understand I'm an Italian kid, so I don't even know how many presidents are on Mount Rushmore."

When asked his top four, Bryant said Johnson, Bird, Jordan and Bill Russell.

srichardson@tribune.com

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