Photo Credit: @Jose3030
Kobe Bryant won his 4th All-Star MVP as the Western Conference All-Stars held off a late run by the Eastern squad to win the 60th NBA All-Star game by the final margin of 148-143. Bryant had 37 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals as he tied NBA Hall-of-fame forward, Bob Pettit for the most All-Star MVPs in NBA history.
“I feel like we have a sense of responsibility and we are voted in for what we do during the season, which is play hard,” Bryant said after the game. “And we come here, that’s what the fans want to see. They want to see us go at it and see us compete and that’s what I try to do and that’s what I try to tell my teammates to do.”
The West team did just that as they got off to a fast start as they led 21-10 at the first stop in the action with the East turning the ball over a bunch early, and generally looking disjointed despite the normal lack of defense we have come to expect in such exhibition games. Kobe, after a pre-game interview in which he downplayed the intensity he would later show on the court while claiming he would mostly shoot jumpers, showed early that he planned to have his imprint all over a hopeful victory by the West. His first points came on a baseline turn-around jumper and a reverse dunk on a baseline drive, and he continued to shoot early and often en route to 21 first-half points. Kevin Durant, his teammate, kept pace early with 15 points in the half when the West led 76-64.
The West continued their dominance into the second half, and they out-scored the East in each of the game’s first three quarters. It was the same lack of defense, however, that would later allow the East to make the game close in the final quarter. Although the West put up a hearty 31 points in the final quarter, the East team, led by LeBron James, bested them by putting up the 43 points in the highest-scoring quarter of the night. The highlight plays continued as James and Amare Stoudamire led the offense and their team to within three points on a Ray Allen 3PT FG. In the end, the lead that the West’s early dominance earned them proved too much for the East to overcome.
Had the East’s comeback been successful, James would’ve surely stole the show and the MVP from Bryant. He became only the 2nd player in NBA history (Michael Jordan was the other) to record a triple-double in the All-Star game with 29 points (10-18 FG), 12 rebounds, and 10 assists. James’ Heat teammate, Dwyane Wade, appeared to injure his ankle early in the 3rd quarter, and never returned. The much ballyhooed lineup that would include all four Celtics selected to the team checked into a smattering of boos at the 6:37 mark of the first quarter to take the court with starting center, Dwight Howard. Overall, they did not log much court time, as veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce played a game-low eight and 11 minutes, respectively. Hometown favorite Blake Griffin (whom many inside the STAPLES Center reported received the 2nd loudest cheers next to Bryant), played a surprisingly low 15 minutes; he did have several of his highlight-reel finishes on fast-break dunks and alley-oops.
In Kobe’s speech accepting the MVP, he acknowledged that this would be his last All-Star game in LA. His teammates and his coach were seemingly all behind him getting the honor as they looked to get him the ball, and he obliged by taking a game-high 26 shots (one shy of the record) in his 29 minutes (second only to Durant’s 30 minutes on the West). He was aggressive in the game’s other phases too – 10 of his 14 rebounds were offensive – and he was on the court during the East’s late rally to ensure that his team would win on his home court.
The game’s other highlights included the East starters all participating in a synchronized version of LeBron James’ powder-toss; a one-handed leaning dunk by Russell Westbrook on a fast-break; Ray Allen faking a pass behind his head and finishing a layup, as well as a statue-of-liberty dunk on the fast break; Kobe Bryant also slowed down on a fast-break to allow LeBron to catch up to him, and then dunked the ball with two hands before James’ could get one of his chase-down blocked shots.
Notes: The halftime show was certainly more appropriate for the audience than the Lenny Kravitz opener as pop-sensation Rihanna performed a medley of her hits, and she was joined by surprised-yet-expected cameos by rappers Drake and Kanye West…Bill Russell was honored during the 2nd quarter timeout for the Presidential Medal of Freedom he received from President Barack Obama earlier this week…and he appeared to be wearing the same thing he wore at the ceremony too #justsaying…Paul Pierce took his place atop the individual rankings in the STAPLES Center Booing Hierarchy as his player-introduction drew the loudest boos from the crowd, even louder than Garnett, but decidedly close to LeBron James.