HOUSTON — Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant turned this All-Star game into 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.
But the NBA’s high-flyers sure could leap in them.
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.
West 143, East 138
EAST ALL-STARS (138)
James 7-18 2-4 19, Bosh 3-9 0-0 6, Garnett 0-2 0-0 0, Wade 10-13 0-0 21, Anthony 8-14 7-9 26, Chandler 2-5 3-3 7, Irving 6-11 0-0 15, Deng 4-10 1-1 10, George 7-13 0-0 17, Noah 4-7 0-0 8, Holiday 3-6 0-0 6, Lopez 0-1 3-4 3. Totals 54-109 16-21 138.
WEST ALL-STARS (143)
Durant 13-24 1-1 30, Griffin 9-11 1-2 19, Howard 4-6 0-0 9, Paul 7-10 2-3 20, Bryant 4-9 1-2 9, Duncan 1-4 0-0 2, Parker 5-10 2-2 13, Harden 6-13 0-0 15, Randolph 3-6 0-0 6, Westbrook 7-13 0-0 14, Aldridge 0-2 0-0 0, Lee 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 62-112 7-10 143.
East All-Stars 26 39 39 34 — 138
West All-Stars 31 38 39 35 — 143
3-Point Goals—East All-Stars 14-39 (George 3-6, Irving 3-6, Anthony 3-7, James 3-7, Wade 1-2, Deng 1-5, Lopez 0-1, Holiday 0-2, Bosh 0-3), West All-Stars 12-32 (Paul 4-5, Harden 3-8, Durant 3-8, Howard 1-1, Parker 1-3, Duncan 0-1, Westbrook 0-3, Bryant 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—East All-Stars 61 (Anthony 12), West All-Stars 52 (Howard 7). Assists—East All-Stars 33 (Wade 7), West All-Stars 39 (Paul 15). Total Fouls—East All-Stars 10, West All-Stars 14. A—16,101 (18,023).