The National Basketball Association's All-Star Game is over, and the last part of the season is under way. That means the players will start playing defense again.

Did you see Sunday night's All-Star Game from Las Vegas, Nevada? The final score was 155-132. I know it's hard to keep superstars such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony from getting points. But it's really hard if no defensive player is anywhere near them. I guess players aren't named all-stars because they play tough "D."

Even the other game on all-star weekend -- between the NBA's best rookies and the league's second-year stars -- was a shootout. The second-year players won, 155-114.

What happens the rest of this season will have a lot more to do with defense than what happened at the All-Star Game. Let's take a look.

The Dallas Mavericks(44 wins and 9 losses before last night's late game) and the Phoenix Suns(41-13) are battling for the best record in the NBA. I love watching the Suns. Point guard Steve Nash leads their fast break and dishes out assists to high-flying scorers Amare Stoudemire, Shawn Marion and Leandro Barbosa. The Suns score loads of points (almost 111 a game) but have trouble stopping other teams from scoring.

The Mavericks, led by all-star Dirk Nowitzki, can score, too. In addition, they can keep other teams from scoring. Only the San Antonio Spursand the Houston Rockets give up fewer points than the Mavs. One of the Mavs' best defensive stoppers is 6-foot-7 Josh Howard, a terrific all-around player. Howard makes it hard for the other team's best players to score when the game is close. So I bet the Mavericks will finish in front of the Suns.

The Washington Wizardsare in the fight for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Wizards are like the Suns: They can score but have trouble stopping the other guys. Only the sad-sack Golden State Warriorsand the Memphis Grizzliesgive up more points than the Wizards. Chances are Washington won't finish atop the East or go very far in the playoffs unless the Wizards improve their defense.

In basketball, as in most games, offense is fun -- shooting three-pointers, hitting home runs or scoring touchdowns. Defense, on the other hand, is mostly

hard work.

But every team, whether it's an NBA team trying to make playoffs or a kids' team trying to get better, needs players who try as hard on defense as they do on offense.

If you don't believe me, check out the rest of the NBA season. The high scorers might go to all-star games, but it's teams that play defense that go to championship games.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is an author of sports novels for kids.