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MVP JAMES, EAST RISE TO VICTORY

LeBron James is the difference in a back-and-forth game that is decided at the end.

King James is All-Star royalty again.

LeBron James threw down a powerful dunk for the go-ahead basket with 55 seconds left, punctuating an MVP performance and helping the Eastern Conference beat the West 134-128 on Sunday night in the All-Star Game.

James finished with 27 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in capturing his second MVP award in the past three years. He was honored in 2006 in Houston.

The East blew a big lead Sunday, with the West rallying from 16 down to grab a fourth-quarter lead. But with the score tied at 125, James came up with a steal, then dribbled the length of the court before soaring for a dunk in a crowd that put the East back on top for good.

Ray Allen scored 28 for the East, 14 coming in the fourth quarter. Allen hit three straight 3-pointers in the final 3:15.

James danced with a jazz band playing during pregame introductions then went down the line and high-fived the rest of the East players at the completion of the national anthem.

"The East did a great job, man; we got a big lead in the first half, and we withstood their run in the fourth quarter," James said after accepting the MVP trophy from commissioner David Stern. "We made plays down the stretch."

None bigger than the one by James, which started with him batting away a Dirk Nowitzki pass.

"You saw that last dunk by LeBron," West guard Chris Paul said. "I mean, we had two people on him, but that still wasn't enough."

James scored 12 in the first half, taking part in a dunk competition with Magic center Dwight Howard.

James, Howard and Jason Kidd teamed on the highlight play of the first half, a Kidd-to-James-to-Howard lob, which Howard slammed in. Howard and James later took turns setting each other up for slams, with James throwing down a lob from Howard with his right hand to give the East a 57-50 lead. James made a 3-pointer minutes later to push the lead to nine.

KIDD DEAL: A deal is in place to send Nets point guard Jason Kidd to the Mavericks, various media outlets reported.

Kidd, who turns 35 next month, and forward Malik Allen would go to Dallas for point guard Devin Harris, center DeSagana Diop, swingman Maurice Ager, forward Trenton Hassell and retired forward Keith Van Horn. New Jersey also would get two first-round picks and $3-million.

The proposal likely will go to the league for approval today.

Dallas still owned the rights to Van Horn, who has been out of the league for 1-1/2 seasons and is included in the deal to make the numbers work. It seems unlikely he will actually play for the Nets.

James joked with Kidd: "I told him he should have spent 30 minutes in the Western Conference meetings and 30 minutes in the Eastern Conference meetings. At halftime he might go play for the West."

GARNETT IMPROVES: Celtics center Kevin Garnett, the leading All-Star vote getter who missed the game because of an abdominal strain, worked out for coach Doc Rivers on Sunday. He's expected to practice with the club today and could return to action Tuesday. "I'm back to my old self again," he said.

REMEMBERING PETE: At the conclusion of the Legends Brunch, held annually by the NBA Retired Players Association, Earl Monroe made a beeline for Pete Maravich's widow, Jackie, and her sons, Jaeson and Josh.

Monroe said he had to express his appreciation, his awe, for a fellow legend, Pistol Pete.

"He was special," Monroe told the Maravich family, "and a really good guy."

Maravich never won an NBA championship. By the time he made it to Boston for the 1980 playoffs, on his last career legs, rookie Larry Bird and the Celtics were still a year away from being the last team standing.

Has championship-ring deprivation diminished Maravich in any historical sense? Didn't seem to be the case when Hornets point guard Chris Paul introduced the family and the crowd erupted with such gusto that Josh was overcome to the point where he couldn't look up.

"To hear my father remembered that way, I just lost it a little," he said.

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