LeBron praises Melo for second-half effort

ORLANDO -- As it's been since these famous words were said in 2010, "I'm taking my talents to South Beach," the NBA has been all about pairing the popular quoter, LeBron James, with his superstar sidekick, Dwyane Wade.

That was the case after the NBA All-Star game, when James, who scored 36 points, and Wade, who had a triple-double (24 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds), once again stepped up to the press conference podium together -- this time at the Amway Center Sunday night. But as they addressed the media, James made sure to give a shout out to his teammates, especially Carmelo Anthony.

Though the East lost to the West, 152-149, James complimented the Knicks' small forward for helping the team erase their 19-point first-half deficit.

"Melo played great, as well, in the second half," James said.

Anthony scored nine of his 19 points in the fourth quarter alone, bringing the East team back to make it a three-point game, 146-143. He did it by pushing around his 6-8, 230-pound size in the paint and capitalizing on a series of layups and a few free throws. James knew Melo wanted to win the game as much as he did.

"Being a competitor, no matter All-Star Game or not, you don't want to get blown out," James said. "You have some of the best competitors out on the floor at the same time. Not only me and Kobe [Bryant], but D-Wade and [Kevin] Durant and Melo and CP3 [Chris Paul] ... We all wanted to win, and it came down to the last minute or last seconds."

That also couldn't have been possible without the Nets' Deron Williams. While he only played 18 minutes off the bench -- he didn't even see the court in the first and third quarter -- it was his performance in the fourth that could've made him the MVP candidate.

D-Will scored eight of his 20 points in the final period on two threes and a layup (after a steal), which decreased the East's deficit to 148-147, with a 1:40 remaining. If he had made his 3-point attempt with eight seconds left, it would've put the East up 152-151, their first lead of the game since the first quarter.

Williams talked through that critical sequence after the game.

"We called a timeout. Coach [Tom Thibodeau] drew up a great play to give me a shot," D-Will said. "There were a couple different options. I was the last option. We went through it and we missed our shot."

But overall, Williams said he had a fun time during All-Star Weekend and Anthony was gracious for the opportunity to compete on Sunday.

After the game, Melo tweeted: "To all my fans, thanks for the support this weekend!!!!! Much appreciated. Now back to business." He confirmed he would be back in New York tomorrow morning, saying, "I know how important these next two practices are," referring to one Monday afternoon and a second Tuesday morning at the Knicks' training facility.

In the postgame interview room, ESPNNewYork.com took part in a small Q&A session with Williams. Here are some highlights:

Q.) What do games like this mean to you and to fans? Obviously you guys put on a show.

A.) That's what this weekend is about. Just in general, the weekend is about the fans. That's what coach [Thibodeau] said. The fans come out to see the best players in the world playing on one court. And it means a lot to me. I love coming and being a part of All-Star Weekend very year.

Q.) It won't take long for all the talk to shift to free agency and the Mar. 15 trade deadline.

A.) No question. The deadline is on the 15th and every year they move the deadline up.

Q.) Do players pay attention to all the rumors and everything else?

A.) It's impossible not to. There's no doubt that you're coming to ask questions every day. It's part of the game. It's part of our job. Trades happen.

Q.) Is there anything specific that you're looking for the Nets to come out and do in the second half of the season?

A.) Improve. I don't know if we're going to do it right now.

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