All-Star athletes showcase talents, lend helping hands

NEW ORLEANS (AP) – A few NBA All-Stars departed the Big Easy with souvenirs from a memorable weekend.

LeBron James took another MVP trophy back to Cleveland. Dwight Howard headed to Florida a much bigger star.

Kobe Bryant left well-rested and nursing the same injured finger that made his visit strictly ceremonial.

Led by James and Ray Allen, the Eastern Conference outplayed its more trumpeted counterparts from the Western Conference and avenged a year-old beating with a 134-128 win on Sunday night.

Allen scored 28 points, making three straight 3-pointers in the final 3:15. James added 27, including a dunk in the last minute.

“(The West) beat up on us pretty bad last year,” James said. “We didn’t want to allow that to happen. We wanted to win.”

James was named MVP for the second time in three years.

Howard, whose performance in the slam dunk contest had fans buzzing more than 24 hours later, scored 16 on 7-of-7 shooting, and Jason Kidd had 10 assists.

Amare Stoudemire, Brandon Roy and Carmelo Anthony scored 18 points apiece to lead the West, which trailed by 13 entering the fourth but rallied behind Hornets guard Chris Paul.

Paul’s seventh assist of the final period set up Roy’s layup to give the West a 122-119 lead.

But Boston’s Allen, the final player added to either roster, knocked down his second 3-pointer in 48 seconds to tie it before Paul answered with a 3-pointer.

James forced a turnover before slashing through the lane to dunk over several West defenders.

“We had two people on him,” Paul said. “But that still wasn’t enough.”

Paul was called for an offensive foul on the West’s next trip. Dwyane Wade hit a layup and Allen scored to make it 131-125. Roy’s 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds left in the contest brought the West within three, but Allen made three free throws to close it out.

The NBA boosted its image by helping New Orleans’ recovery as superstars bowed to a city in need.

“The way the NBA reached out to the community is something I’ll never forget,” Paul said.

On Friday, the world’s biggest basketball names and hundreds of volunteers fanned out to all sides of the city to help refurbish playgrounds, paint houses and lend a hand with whatever they could on a day entirely devoted to community service.