LOS ANGELES -- Down the street from Hollywood and far removed from the usual intensity of competition, the NBA's All-Star players put on their show at the Staple Centers on Sunday night.
Trash talk and hard fouls were saved for when it counts. Rivalries were put on hold -- at one point Hawks guard Joe Johnson sat on the bench smiling between Celtics stars Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce, while Hawks center Al Horford shared laughs with Orlando nemesis Dwight Howard.
Johnson, who joined Horford on the East squad for the second consecutive season, said that's the way it should be.
"Throughout the regular season there is so much hostility on the court," Johnson said before the game. "Guys are banging and getting in each other's face. But we get a chance to come together for one special weekend and just hang out and kind of put all of that to the side, and that's pretty much what happened.
"I think guys tend to really kind of forget about [the competition] and just enjoy the weekend, and just embrace everything that goes on around us."
There was plenty going on Sunday night in addition to exhibition basketball. The event was as much about the sideshow, about he entertainment stars who came out, as it was those who showed up to play basketball.
There were live performances by Lenny Kravitz, Rhianna, Drake and Kanye West. Josh Groban sang the Star Spangled Banner. Among the other celebrities at the game were Diddy, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Spike Lee, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Beyonce and Stevie Wonder.
It was an exhibition but there were reminders that once the weekend ended the league would get back to the business of determining its champion.
Not surprisingly, Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, who played in his home arena, got the most cheers. The vocal support started when he was introduced before the game and were loudest when he had a reverse dunk early. "MVP" chants broke out when he went to the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, the Celtics' four All-Stars drew the most jeers. That wasn't surprising since the Celtics remain the Lakers' long-time rivals and were their opponents in the 2010 Finals.
Boston forward Paul Pierce, a California native, was hardly spared from the scorn of Lakers fans. They let him have it even as the public-address announcer noted he was raised in nearby Inglewood.
The game followed the usual script of free-flowing offense and token defense, though Horford notably seemed to play more of the latter than most All-Stars.
Atlanta's All-Stars got in on the scoring in the second quarter, when Johnson made consecutive 3-pointers as the East tried to rally. He missed his third 3-point attempt after getting a fast-break pass from Horford, who collected the rebound and scored.
Later in the period Johnson went to the bench and held a towel to his nose after he appeared to get hit in the face. He returned to the game in the third quarter and quickly made another 3-pointer.
Bryant was well on his way to earning game MVP honors after scoring 21 points in the first half to help stake the West to a 76-64 lead. Bryant had 34 points after three quarters, six shy of Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star record.
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