NEW ORLEANS — The Cleveland Cavaliers are in the midst of a rotten season, and Kyrie Irving has been in the middle of it.
What happened Sunday night should ease Irving’s pain.
Irving won MVP honors as he led the Eastern Conference to a 163-155 win over the Western Conference on Sunday night in the highest-scoring game in the exhibition’s history.
The East snapped a three-game losing streak to the West as Irving scored 31 points, grabbed five rebounds and dished out 14 assists.
Joakim Noah, the Bulls' lone representative, tallied eight points, five rebounds and five assists off the bench.
Irving and his East teammates trailed by as many as 18 points with 4:23 left in the third quarter.
But the East took control from that point on.
With 1:41 remaining in the fourth quarter, Paul George was fouled by James Harden in 3-point territory, and George made all three free throws to give the East a 156-155 lead.
The East never trailed again.
After a missed layup by Kevin Durant, the East extended its lead. LeBron James missed a 3-pointer, but Irving grabbed an offensive rebound and passed to Carmelo Anthony.
Anthony sank a 3-pointer to put the East ahead 159-155 with 1:04 to go.
Durant scored 38 points, collected 10 rebounds and distributed six assists.
The East and West combined to score 318 points, beating the previous record of 303 points in 1987.
Watching it all from the bench Sunday night was Kobe Bryant.
The Los Angeles Lakers superstar didn’t play because he fractured his left knee on Dec. 17. The knee injury occurred just six games after he returned from a ruptured Achilles’ tendon.
Even Bryant has wondered if his best days as a player are behind him.
“To have those conversations with yourself and not be intimidated by that and succumbing to that is part of the challenge,” Bryant said before the game. “It's really the biggest challenge, saying, ‘Well, maybe this is the end, but then again, maybe it's not.’ And it is my responsibility to do all that I can to make sure that it's not.”
Bryant received a loud ovation during pregame introductions — perhaps the loudest ovation of any player. The event featured the glitz and pageantry typical of NBA All-Star Games.
Ludacris, Drake, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Chris Tucker, Kevin Hart, Spike Lee, Kendrick Lamar and CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer attended the game.
Pharrell Williams, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Nelly, Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes performed in the pregame concert inside the arena.