NBA All-Star Game 2013: Thrilling One-on-One Matchups to Watch for on Sunday

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIFebruary 16, 2013

MIAMI, FL - JUNE 19:  LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat looks to pass the ball in the second half against Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder in Game Four of the 2012 NBA Finals on June 19, 2012 at American Airlines Arena in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Sunday's NBA All-Star Game in Houston features plenty of tantalizing talent, but there are several one-on-one matchups that should highlight the evening.

Players from both teams are banged up heading into the break, and the frequency with which these opposing studs will square off largely depend on minute distribution. However, all of the following dynamos are set to start with the exception of Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving.

Here is a breakdown of the best individual skirmishes that will be on display in the Toyota Center.


LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant

Not only are they arguably the two best players in the sport right now, but the personnel on both sides make frequent encounters between KD and LBJ inevitable.

Carmelo Anthony has been hampered by health issues and it remains to be seen how much he'll play in Houston. Chris Bosh has been shuffled into the starting lineup by Heat and East coach Erik Spoelstra, which locks James in at the 3.

Injuries have plagued Los Angeles Lakers center Dwight Howard, so he too may see limited action. That would bring Durant's teammate Russell Westbrook off the bench, thrusting Durant into a matchup with James.

As for why this matchup is exciting, look no further than Thursday night's game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat. The outcome may have been lopsided, but that didn't stop Durant from putting up a game-high 40 points, just one better than James' 39.

It's been four years since James won the All-Star Game MVP award, but he is on an absolute tear offensively. The Durantula is the reigning winner of the accolade, which only adds to the intrigue and likelihood that this will be a phenomenal showcase.


Kobe Bryant vs. Dwyane Wade

There aren't many better lockdown perimeter defenders than the Black Mamba in recent memory, as Bryant has made the NBA's all-defensive first team nine times in his phenomenal career.

However, Wade is a strong defender in his own right, and both of these men happen to be among the most explosive scorers in the league.

Bryant is due to blow off some steam after doing his best to hold together the struggling Los Angeles Lakers all season long. That notion is fortified by L.A.'s most recent blowout loss to the crosstown rival Clippers, who are suddenly the city's best squad by a large margin.

As mentioned above, James has been on a tear for the Heat, and this stage lends Wade the opportunity to assert himself more. Considering James' unselfish nature and the fact that this is an exhibition, it's feasible that Wade will be much more involved from a scoring standpoint.

Wade sank 11 of his 15 shots for 24 points in last year's game en route to a triple-double performance, and should continue to thrive in this latest All-Star clash.


Kyrie Irving vs. Chris Paul

It's almost guaranteed that the 20-year-old Cleveland Cavaliers point guard will get significant minutes with the injury to Boston Celtics PG Rajon Rondo.

Irving is one of the most prolific scorers in the game already and has a dizzying array of moves for someone so young. He will need every one of those against Paul, who is widely considered the best at the position.

Paul has also been named to the all-defensive first team twice, including last season. He is a much more capable distributor than Irving, but has proven that he can score in bunches, too.

There is a chance that Paul will take advantage of Irving's lackluster defense and look for his shot more. That should only lead Irving to respond on the other end by showing what he can do against such a stout defender.

Mired on a lowly Cavs team for the second consecutive season, this weekend marks Irving's big chance to show the rest of the world just how amazing he is. He will compete in the three-point shootout, but his tilt with Paul will be among the most thrilling developments to watch in the game.