February 18, 2013 in Sports

MVP Paul, Bryant, Griffin lead West to win over East

Brian Mahoney Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

West’s Zach Randolph, left, and East’s Joakim Noah fight for a loose ball in Houston.
(Full-size photo)(All photos)

Paul serves up win for West

HOUSTON – Chris Paul knew exactly what to do with the unlimited talent around him in Sunday’s NBA All-Star game: find the open man and enjoy the show.

Paul became the first Los Angeles Clippers player to be game’s MVP, scoring 20 points and handing out 15 assists in the West’s 143-138 win over the East.

He made 7-of-10 shots, including four 3-pointers, and became the third player to have at least 20 points and 15 assists in the league’s annual showcase, joining a couple of Hall of Fame point guards, Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas.

“In games like this, it’s so up-tempo and fast-paced,” Paul said. “A guy like me, that’s a facilitator, I enjoy (it).”

Paul already had the best per-game assists average in All-Star history, 12.4 in four appearances. “This game is slightly different than a regular-season game,” Paul said. “You have to pick your poison. You tag Blake at the rim for a dunk, you’re leaving KD wide open for the 3.”

Paul, leading the league this season with 2.59 steals per game, had four on Sunday.

Chris Duncan, AP

HOUSTON – Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant turned this All-Star game into an L.A. story.

Paul had 20 points, 15 assists and won MVP honors, Bryant blocked LeBron James’ comeback attempt, and the Western Conference beat the East 143-138 on Sunday night.

Kevin Durant scored 30 points and Griffin finished with 19, joining his Clippers teammate, Paul, in creating Lob City deep in the heart of Texas.

“You just want to play fast. I like to throw the lob. I like to see guys hit 3s,” Paul said. “When we’re out on the court with all that firepower, why wouldn’t you want to make passes? You’ve got KD filling one of the lanes, you’ve got Blake, Kobe on the wing. There’s nothing like it.”

James scored 19 points but shot only 7 of 18, Bryant blocking two of his shots late, after having no shooting troubles during the latter part of the season’s first half. Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds.

“I think we played really good defense at the end of the game as a team,” Durant said. “Kobe was really going with the ball. It’s tough to stop LeBron, but he did his best. He was able to block a few of his shots. But CP did a really good job of keeping us in the game.”

On Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, the All-Stars threw down plenty of jams reminiscent of MJ’s glory days.

The first dunk of the game came 16 seconds in, Paul throwing a pass to Griffin as part of the West’s 7-0 start. The West led after each of the first three quarters, though was never ahead by more than eight points through three periods.

They finally pushed it into double figures early in the fourth fueled by former Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but couldn’t put it away until a late run behind the guys from the city of Los Angeles, who along with Lakers center Dwight Howard gave Los Angeles all but one of the West’s starting spots.

Paul hit two 3-pointers, Bryant made a layup, and his block of James led to Durant’s dunk that made it 136-126. Griffin had one last forceful dunk to help close it out, throwing a pass to himself off the backboard and climbing high in his neon green sneakers to slam it home and make it 142-134.

Harden had 15 points in his home arena, where the sights of the game were on the floor and the sounds were at the rim – which shook repeatedly after thunderous dunks for most of the game before, as usual, players tried to make some stops down the stretch.

Players’ sneakers were a variety of pastels and fluorescent colors that looked like they came right from Easter Sunday church, many clashing so badly with their multi-colored socks that they may as well have been created by spilling out random paint buckets.

James and Dwyane Wade wore purple, and Griffin’s neon look was also sported by the usually not-so-loud Tim Duncan and Brook Lopez.

Durant slammed one down so hard at one point that he stumbled backward after landing, appearing woozy. He came in as the career leader in points per game with 28.3 and may have won a second straight MVP award if not for Paul’s big finish.

The Bryant-James duel down the stretch was a good one between the two players who are most often compared to Jordan.

“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 said.

Bryant finished with only nine points but had eight assists. Griffin shot 9 of 11 from the field and didn’t miss until trying to violently throw one down from a few feet away from the basket.

Indiana’s Paul George scored 17 and Kyrie Irving had 15 for the East.

Not everybody had it so easy. Chris Bosh shot two airballs in the first quarter and was booed, tossed up another in the second, and had Tony Parker dribble the ball through his legs on defense. He was even pulled down the stretch by his own coach, Erik Spoelstra, right after Bryant blew right by him for a layup.

Bosh finished 3 of 9. Wade had 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting, the best performance of the three Heat players in the starting lineup.

There were plenty of laughs, players performing comedic skits and poking fun at each other on the Toyota Center’s massive overhead scoreboard. Even the celebrities that surrounded the court – Westbrook almost crashed into Beyonce and Jay-Z while trying for a first-half steal – seemed entertained.

Two of Houston’s biggest basketball stars, Hakeem Olajuwon and Yao Ming and Olympic gold medalists Usain Bolt and Gabby Douglas were among the athletes who weren’t in the game.

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