Houston • For Kevin Garnett, it was perhaps a send-off. For LeBron James, it was No. 9 of who-knows-how-many All-Star appearances.
But in its 143-138 loss Sunday at the Toyota Center, the rest of the Eastern Conference’s lineup was busy representing a certain kind of shift. Six Eastern Conference All-Stars played in their first game, including last year’s Rookie of the Year, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, who scored 15 points and was 3-for-6 on 3-pointers. Paul George, a third-year forward from Indiana, scored 17 points in 20 minutes.
George scored 11 of his points in the second half, and both he and Irving were instrumental in a comeback that saw the East get within one with 7:35 remaining.
"I knew if I came out not playing real aggressive, I was going to kind of get lost in the crowd," George said. "For this to be my first one, I’m very proud of it. We didn’t get the win, but being around guys like KG, that really taught me experience."
With players such as James, Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade perfectly viable options, it was Irving’s 3-pointer that pulled the East within 119-118.
"This was the best weekend," Irving said. "I’m tired now, but being around these great players and being at every event was the experience of a lifetime."
Irving played in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge and won the 3-point shootout during All-Star Saturday night.
Other first-timers in the East included New York veteran center Tyson Chandler, Chicago’s Joakim Noah, Philadelphia point guard Jrue Holiday and Brook Lopez of the Nets.
In the West, it’s a bit tougher to crack the All-Star ranks. James Harden was the only player to make his debut.
Golden State power forward David Lee made his second appearance, but first as an original selection. He was whisked into the 2010 game as a replacement. Lee, whose Warriors play at Utah on Tuesday, finished with 6 points in 13 minutes.
"The first one I was a replacement," he said, "and it seemed like it was just a blur. I felt like I was kind of on the outside looking in [at] everything; this time, I felt like I really belonged and I was ready to go out there today with a lot of confidence."
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