|NBA All-Star Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers (3) shoots past All-Star Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat (3) during the 2013 NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Texas, February 17, 2013. Photo by Erik S. Lesser, Reuters.
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATE 2) Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul turned Houston's Toyota Center into his own personal playground as he powered the Western Conference to a 143-138 victory over the Eastern Conference in the 2013 NBA All-Star Game Sunday (Monday in Manila).
Paul showed off his dribbling skills and court vision on his way to a 20-point, 15-assist, four-steal performance that allowed him to win the NBA All-Star Game Most Valuable Player trophy for the first time in his career.
"I just never expected something like this. All these great players I have an opportunity to play with, it's an honor and a privilege," said Paul.
Paul chose to play the facilitator in the first half, tallying nine assists as he set up teammate Blake Griffin, LA Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant for easy baskets.
"You just want to play fast. I like to throw the lob. I like to see guys hit 3s. When we're out on the court with all that firepower, why wouldn't you want to make passes?" Paul said in NBA.com.
"You've got KD filling one of the lanes, you've got Blake, Kobe on the wing. There's nothing like it," he added.
Durant led all scorers with 30 points, and became the first player in NBA history to score 30 points or more in three consecutive All-Star Games. Griffin finished with 19 points, most of which came on rim-rattling dunks.
"I'm just out there having fun," Durant said. "I played a lot of street basketball. I played a lot of celebrity games. This is my type of ballgame, up and down."
|NBA All-Star Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma Thunder dunks during the 2013 NBA All-Star basketball game in Houston, Texas, February 17, 2013. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters/
It was a close contest all the way as the West All-Stars never managed to build a comfortable lead.
Former Thunder teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden (now with the Houston Rockets) teamed up with San Antonio point guard Tony Parker to finally give the West some separation 119-109, early in the fourth period, but the East quickly erased the lead.
First-time All-Star Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers drained back-to-back triples to cap a nine-point run by the East and make it a 118-119 game with 7:35 to go.
After a tip-in by New York’s Carmelo Anthony brought the East to within three points, 126-129, with a little under four minutes to go, Paul seized control of the game.
Paul drained two three-pointers in a 10-2 run that allowed the West All-Stars to build a 139-128 advantage with 1:57 remaining.
He got some help from Bryant, who blocked a jumper from Miami’s LeBron James that led to a slam dunk for Durant on the other end.
Back-to-back triples by Indiana's first-time All-Star Paul George allowed the East to briefly threaten, but Bryant had another block and then a steal on James as Griffin sealed the victory with a vicious dunk off the backboard.
"It's an honor and a privilege any time you get on the court with Russ (Westbrook) and KD (Durant), all these guys," Paul said after receiving the MVP trophy.
"I got the easy part," he added. "All I gotta do is give them the ball."
"Everybody competed," said Anthony, who led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds. "We get guys out there of that caliber, and they’re going to compete. Nobody likes to lose."
"At the end of the day, we're all basketball players. We’re all competitors."
Bryant was seen talking trash at James after the 34-year-old Laker superstar blocked the three-time MVP's jump shot.
"It was all in good spirit, man. It was just two guys that love to compete, love to go at it. So I had a lot of fun," James told NBA.com.
The duel between James and Bryant late in the game was just one of the highlights in a contest full of them.
Harden, representing the host Houston Rockets, had several daredevil drives to the basket as well as deep threes on his way to scoring 15 points.
Westbrook (14) and Parker (13) also scored in double-figures off the bench for Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.
In their All-Star Game debuts, George and Irving both had their moments in the spotlight.
Irving, who also competed in the Rising Stars Challenge and the Three-Point Shootout, completed a busy All-Star Weekend by firing 15 points and dazzling the Houston crowd with his ball-handling ability.
But Miami's big man Chris Bosh had a miserable time as he air-balled three shots and was used as a prop by the West guards. Paul and Parker dribbled the ball through Bosh's legs on separate occasions, while Bryant crossed him up badly in the final quarter of the contest.
Among the athletes who watched the All-Star Game were former Houston Rockets centers Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming, who was also honored after the first quarter.
Also present were Olympic medalists Gabby Douglas and Usain Bolt, who competed in the Celebrity Game earlier in the weekend.
Superstar couple Jay-Z and Beyonce were also in attendance, while Ne-Yo performed in the pre-game introduction and John Legend sang the National Anthem. Alicia Keys starred in the halftime show.
The All-Star Game capped a weekend full of festivities for the NBA, which also featured last Saturday's Slam Dunk Contest and Three-Point Shootout, as well as the Rising Stars Challenge last Friday. -- With a report from Reuters.