by Lang Whitaker / @langwhitaker

OK! After a weekend of dunks and threes and parties and meetings, we are at the end of the chain: The 2012 All-Star Game is moments away.

As always, All-Star has been surreal and strange and exhausting and fun. The most All-Star moment of the weekend probably happened just a few minutes ago as we were trying to make out way onto the elevator and to our seats in the press section. As we jostled for room in a tight hallway, on one side were A-Rod and Torrie Wilson, in front of us was Gabrielle Union, and then about a dozen mascots charged in and weaved around everyone.

What happens tonight? Who knows. I just hope the game stays close until the end, so the teams will have a little something to play for down the stretch.

Anyway, we’re here, we’re ready to go. I’ll be back momentarily to liveblog this spectacle.

• A quick word about Orlando: I’ve been to most of the arenas around the NBA, but I hadn’t been to the Amway Center before this weekend. The arena is sparkling and clean and roomy, a gorgeous venue for the game. I’ve been particularly impressed with all the people working here, who have been unfailingly polite and kind. It’s been a bit of a haul getting around the city because the arena, the hotel and Jam Session were each about 10 miles from the other, but traffic really wasn’t bad. I just wish I had time to hit Potter World. Hopefully they’ll have butterbeer tonight at media hospitality.

• As for an MVP prediction, I’ll play it safe and go with Dwight, the hometown guy.

• TNT’s Idris Elba promo, which I think played on TV, is played over the scoreboard in the arena. Pretty dope. Turner Sports stays winning with the promos.

• The lights in the arena go black, and Nicki Minaj takes the stage behind the basket furthest from us. She’s wearing purple hair and a silver/white suit thing, which for her is actually pretty understated. After two songs, we meet the Western Conference All-Stars. Scott Brooks! Dirk Nowitzki! Marc Gasol! Kevin Love! Russell Westbrook! Steve Nash! LaMarcus Aldridge! Tony Parker!

• A flap on the stage opens up, and smoke and fire comes from under the stage, as the All-Stars walk out of the smoke with some swag. Pretty cool. Griff, Durant, Bynum, CP3, Kobe.

• The West is here, so Nicki returns, now with chartreuse hair. With the crazy lights and computer graphics, the whole thing is very tech-forward and…OK, she just started popping.

• Here comes the East: Thibodeau! Pierce! Rondo! Luol (with the Africa shirt)! Hibbert! Bosh! Deron Williams! Iguodala! Then the flap opens and the East starters come dancing out, all except Derrick Rose, who looks like he could use a nap. Wade! Anthony! Dwight (who gets huge cheers)! James!

• Nicki returns, closes it out. We get the Canadian Anthem from a group called Neverest, I believe. Just as we’re wondering who’s singing the US Anthem, they announce Mary J. Blige, who gets a huge ovation. She sings it simply but beautifully, a cappella, and gets a larger ovation. Great stuff.

• OK, it’s 7:40, and we’re finally ready to rock.

• It would be kind of funny if Melo won the MVP. I’m now rooting for this to happen.

• When I stood up for the anthems, my chair feel behind me, and somehow while trying to pick it up I sliced my right thumb open. But this is All-Star, and I’m going to play hurt! There’s blood on this keyboard!

• The West opens with a pin-down for Kobe, and he curls baseline for the J. Bynum swats Dwight, and Durant rips a three. Griffin dunks the next time down to put the West ahead 7-0, and I’m pretty sure Thibs is really to burn a timeout.

• First crazy dunk of the game comes from Bron, who rocks the cradle and throws down lefty. next time down he drops off a sweet pass for Rose to bring the East within two, 9-7, and then goes around the back to Wade, who flips an oop back to him to tie it at 9.

• Dwight Howard just fired up a three that bricked. Looked like me shooting threes earlier today in the Jordan Brand pickup games.

• (At least I did make one!)

• West gets out on a break and CP3 throws a pass off the glass to Durant, who tomahawks it home. West leads 24-13 halfway through the first at the first TO.

• During the timeout, the Magic’s kids dance team comes out to perform. One of the little kids is wearing a Superman outfit. I bet Shaq’s upset with that kid.

• Celebs on the scoreboard: Li’l Wayne, Drake, Kevin Hart.

• The West gets a breakaway 4-on-1, and CP3 goes thru the legs to a trailing Blake Griffin for the monster dunk. Love how CP made the pass, then grabbed Deng and pulled him out of the way to give Blake an open dunk. West moves ahead 34-28.

• Not sure if they’re showing this at home, but they have an NBA big-head commercial where a bunch of NBA players perform Loverboy’s “Working For The Weekend.” Pretty great stuff.

• First standing O of the night goes to a huge section of seats filled with people from the military when they’re highlighted on the scoreboard. Nice moment.

• SUBS!

• The score after 1, West 39, East 28. Kobe and LeBron each have 11.

• Between quarters, we see a video tribute to Magic Johnson’s performance in the ASG back in ’92, and then Magic takes the court and gets a standing O. Another cool moment.

• Made a popcorn run and ran into some guy named Wes.

• Just found out the halftime show is going to be Pitbull. I assume with some other performers, but don’t know who else will be involved just yet.

• Chris Bosh just banked in a three to bring the East within 9, 61-52. Now a timeout with the West up 11. I’m not really going to talk about the action much more because I’m not sure what else to say about it, unless the game gets close down the stretch.

• If I had to pick a PG most likely to break a backboard on a dunk, I’d probably go with Russ Westbrook. Ben’s going with Derrick Rose on one of his two-hand dunks.

• Not sure how much of a chance there is that the East will make a game of this. They’re down 78-60 now with 2 minutes to go in the first half, and the West is motivated — Durant and Westbrook just doubled an inbound pass and got a steal. I’m guessing Thibodeau is going to raise hell at halftime. I really hope they have a camera in there.

• Durant’s playing like he’s in a Goodman League game. He’s got 21 points and 6 boards, with 45 seconds to go in the half.

• There’s a flurry of scoring toward the end of the half, and the West ends up with Blake Griffin drilling a three at the buzzer, to put the West up 88-69 at halftime. If the East is going to come back, someone’s gotta stop KD. Or maybe they can trade for him or something.

• The 88 from the West in the first half is an ASG record for a half.

• Pitbull.

• Pitbull and Chris Brown.

• Chris Brown.

• Ne-Yo.

• Ne-Yo and Pitbull.

• And there’s your halftime show. Still have 10 mins remaining until the second half starts.

• About to get started again here. Benny the Bull has Kevin Hart’s date sitting in his lap over at courtside.

• OK, gonna take a heckuva comeback from the East to get back into this.

• And Rose turns it over on the first play of the second half, and Durant dunks it.

• BTW, Marc Gasol is in for Bynum, who left the All-Star Game early with “knee soreness.” Also known as “being careful.”

• LeBron wants us to remember he’s still in this. He hits a two and a three, and cuts the deficit to 12.

• While Kobe gets a cut bloody nose attended to and everyone stands around, Dwight hits two lefty free throws.

• Rose hits back-to-back threes, and suddenly the East is down 10, 100-90.

• The East gets it down to 7, but for most of the third, the West lead stays around 10.

• As I mentioned earlier, Ben and I played basketball for a few hours this morning. We played full-court games, and while nobody was really going all-out, I’m sitting here and my legs are throbbing and knees are sore. And it reminds me, as I sit here and watch this game, of just how unbelievably fit all of these guys are. I know they might not be playing all out today, but they’re still out there running and playing relatively hard, and there’s something to be said for what that takes.

• During the timeout, we see some footage from the Dream Team, and then Mullin, Pippen, Robinson, Magic and Drexler are all introduced to big applause.

• It is announced that Kobe Bryant has passed MJ as the all-time All-Star Game scoring leader. Kobe’s probably upset there are no more records for him to break, and he’ll now just focus on getting assists.

• After three, the West leads 124-112, and Kevin Durant has 34 points. Hoping he goes for 50.

• 8 minutes left, and seems like we’re gonna ride this out with the backups the rest of the way. And just as I say that, Kevin Durant returns. Let’s see if he can score 16 in the next 7:31.

• We just realized the fans vote for the All-Star MVP now. I’m hoping they select Jeremy Lin.

• Bron’s back, as are most of the starters. Lead is 13 with 6:23. Three from D-Will makes it 10 point game. Kobe gets called for an offensive foul. The East is running plays for Deron Williams right now, because dude is hot. He’s playing instead of Rose. This might be the first time ever that Thibodeau has resisted the urge to play Rose.

• During the timeout they show a video of Bynum and Kobe playing “Password,” where Kobe tries to get Bynum to say a certain world. Kobe says, “Sometimes Metta World Peace is out of his…” And immediately Bynum says, “Mind.”

• Out of the TO, Wade hits a runner off the glass to cut it to 8. West isos Kobe on Bron, and Kobe hits a pull up. Deron Williams shakes CP3 and misses the jumper.

• The West doubles Bron, and he hits a step-back three over the double. Melo converts an and-one, and the West lead is just 142-136, with 4:08 to play.

• It would be great if Westbrook just started shooting every time down now.

• LeBron tips a long rebound to himself, then, without a dribble, drills a three. Durant scores a two to make it 146-141. For the first time all night, there’s a real buzz from the crowd. 2:22 to play…

• During the timeout, Kevin Hart was forcibly ejected by Benny the Bull.

• Melo hits two free throws to make it 146-143, West.

• West tries to run a play for Durant, but Melo shuts him down. Instead, CP3 drives and passes to a cutting Westbrook, for a dunk. Then the East scores 4 straight, and gets a steal, and has a chance for the lead but…turns it over.

• 1:12 to go, West ball, up 148-147. D-Will and Dwight double CP3, and Dwight picks up a foul.

• Shot clock winding down, Blake misses a long three. The West gets the long rebound, and Westbrook misses a put-back, then Blake does not miss. East comes back and with 22.8 left, Wade goes to the line, and CP3 tries to distract him. He makes the first and the second. 150-149, timeout with 22.8 left.

• The West burns five seconds, before Wade is called for a foul against Kobe — Wade apparently feels he didn’t foul him and was just trying to trap. Kobe to the line: Good. MISS.

• Timeout on the floor, a timeout with the score: West 151, East 149. 16.3 left to play.

• East runs a pick for Williams, who misses the three. The East gets the ball back and Bron tries to zip a pass to Wade, but Griffin picks it off and gets fouled with 1.1 left.

• Griffin, on cue, misses the first and makes the second, and the East takes a timeout with 1.1 left, down three.

• They run a play for Wade, and he takes a corner three….that’s just short. Game time. West wins 152-149. Durant and Bron each finish with 36. Wade has a 24-10-10 triple dip. MVP announcement to come…

• The MVP goes to Kevin Durant.

• That’s it. I’m beat. Thanks for hanging with us all weekend. I think the Playoffs start in a week or so. I need a nap. Check you guys soon. Later…