Arlington, Texas—For a while Sunday night it appeared Joe Johnson’s first All-Star start would be forgettable.
The Hawks guard barely drew iron on his first shot . He went to the bench with no points in six first-quarter minutes.
But then Johnson helped the Eastern Conference heat up later in the half.
Johnson scored on one of his familiar isolation dribble moves with a turnaround jump shot. Then he collected LeBron James’ save from out of bounds and made a 3-pointer. Finally he took a long pass from Derrick Rose for a fastbreak dunk.
Johnson helped key a big run to end the first half, and the East went on to a 141-139 victory over the Western Conference in front of a record crowd of 108,713 at Cowboys Stadium.
“It was amazing,” Johnson said. “I found myself looking up in the stands at all the people or up at the big screen. I enjoyed it, as usual.”
Johnson, playing in his fourth straight All-Star game, finished with 10 points in 18 minutes.
Hawks teammate Al Horford, who made his All-Star debut, had an efficient night with eight points on 4 of 5 shooting in 14 minutes.
“I didn’t allow myself to get nervous,” he said. “I was calm out there.”
It’s the first time the Hawks had two players in the game since Steve Smith and Dikembe Mutombo in 1998.
This wasn’t as competitive as a real game, of course. It’s an exhibition where defense is minimal, flashy plays are expected fun is the priority.
Cowboys Stadium swelled with the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game.
“It was bananas,” Horford said. “It was crazy. We came out before the game and I said, ‘There’s no way they can fill this place up.’ When we came out for the game, I couldn’t believe it.”
For Johnson, the lowest-profile player among the East starters, the game was a chance for some exposure. Coach Stan Van Gundy started Johnson in place of Allen Iverson, who bowed out for personal reasons.
Johnson got into the spirit by dancing along with fellow East starters LeBron James, Kevin Garnett, Dwight Howard and Dwyane Wade during player introductions.
“I came out and gave them a little swag,” he said. “I grooved for them. That’s what this weekend is all about is entertaining.”
Johnson and Horford didn’t figure into the game’s tight finish. Chris Bosh made two free throws with 5 seconds left to secure the victory for the East.
The Miami Heat’s Wade was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. He had 28 points, 11 assists and five steals for the East.