The Washington Times - February 27, 2012, 03:14AM

ORLANDO, Fl. – By the final seconds of the fourth quarter on Sunday night, the NBA All-Star game had morphed into an actual basketball game.

The high-flying exhibition of cross court passes and alley oop dunks that define All-Star competition gave way to a competitive contest, one where where Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant and Miami Heat forward LeBron James guarded one another in the game’s final minutes, with the outcome on the line.

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The West led the entire game, and were up by as many as 21 points. But the East made a run in the fourth to cut it to one point, before the West closed it out for the 152-149 win.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward, and D.C. native Kevin Durant won the MVP, with 36 points on 14-of-25 from the floor. Durant also had seven rebounds and three assists.

“It’s just exciting to be named an All-Star, but to step it up another level and become MVP, it’s only something that as a kid, you dream about,” Durant said.

A first-time All-Star starter, Durant credited his upbringing for helped him achieve his success.

“Coming from where I come from, I didn’t think I’d be here. Everything has just been a blessing to me. I’m excited. I’m taking this back to Oklahoma City with me,” Durant said.

“Guys were making big shots, and they [the East] cut it down to one, after we were up by 18. It was fun. That’s the type of All-Star game you want to see. I’m glad I won. I’m glad I got MVP.”

Durant’s 36 points led the West team, and tied James, who scored 36 points for the East.

“Being a competitor, All-Star game or not, you don’t want to get blown out,” James said.

“Not when you’re going against your peers and you’re going against great players, and you’re playing with great players. I just wanted to pick it up and see if we could make a run at it, and we did.”

Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade finished the game with a triple double, scoring 24 points, and adding 10 assists and 10 rebounds, and joked about his heavy minutes, and playing tough defense on Bryant himself, fouling him so hard that Bryant wound up with a bloody nose.

“Obviously I didn’t try to draw no blood, but I took a foul,” Wade said.

“Kobe fouled me two times in a row, so he’s still got one up on me. But I’m glad everything was cool and we got back to being competitive and having fun.”

Kobe Bryant, who had 27 points, broke Michael Jordan’s record for the most points scored by a player in an All-Star game.

Jordan scored 262 points in 13 All-Star appearances. Bryant, playing in his 14th All-Star game, left the arena without speaking to the media. But Wade talked about Bryant and his growing legacy.

“Being in the All-Star game 14-plus years, he’s an unbelievable scorer,” Wade said.

“That record he got, with KD [Durant] in the league, I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but Kobe is a scorer. Tonight, he does what he normally does.”

“But it’s great being a little piece of history. He’s one of the best of all time.”