NBA: Chris Paul leads West over East in All-Star Game
Houston • Chris Paul had a message for Kevin Durant in the first quarter of Sunday's All-Star Game.
"If they score anything," he recalled telling the Oklahoma City star, "you run."
The Eastern Conference All-Stars scored plenty, and then the West outran them to a 143-138 victory at Toyota Center. Paul finished with 20 points and 15 assists to take home MVP honors.
Paul told Durant, who was last year's All-Star Game MVP and led all scorers this time with 30 points, that he wanted to be the one to get him the ball. And when Durant wasn't an option, Paul had plenty of others. He threw target-practice lobs to teammate Blake Griffin and bounce passes to a cutting Kobe Bryant.
"In games like this," Paul said, "it's so up-tempo and fast-paced, [for a] guy like me that's a facilitator, I enjoy."
And when options were taken away?
"I was open most of the time," he said.
Paul scored 15 points in the second half, including 9 in the fourth quarter.
"He was unbelievable," LeBron James said. "He's one of the best players we have in this league. The number one point guard we have in this league, and it doesn't surprise me what he did on the floor tonight."
Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds, while Dwyane Wade added 21 points.
The West won its third consecutive game, after defeating the East last year in Orlando and two years ago at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The high-flying exhibition didn't lack for highlights, and served as a satisfying capper to the weekend's events after former Weber State star Damian Lillard won the skills challenge on Saturday and Jazz forward Jeremy Evans was the runner-up in the dunk contest.
It allowed Houston's James Harden to reunite with his former Oklahoma City pals, and Kevin Garnett one more All-Star appearance. Garnett, who indicated earlier this week he may opt out of future All-Star invitations, started for the East, but was limited to 6 minutes and did not score.
And then there were the Laker representatives. Kobe Bryant was as lethal and charming as might be expected, and he got in one more game with the failed experiment that has paired him with Dwight Howard. Who knows how many more games those two have left together?
With the East making a late push in a game annually defined by a lack of defense, Bryant blocked two jump shots by Miami's James in the final 2:39 to help the West preserve its win.
"It was a great block," Durant said of the first one. "I haven't really seen any MVP get a jumper blocked like that."
After 40-plus minutes of little defense, Bryant and James started to play each other like it was a regular-season game.
The two players most commonly compared to Michael Jordan celebrated the Hall of Famer's 50th birthday a unique way.
James scored 19 points, while Bryant finished with 9 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds.
"That's what those guys live for," said Eric Spoelstra, who coaches the Miami Heat and guided the Eastern All-Stars. "That's what we were all hoping for was at least this game would be close going down the stretch, so there would be some compelling basketball and there definitely was for the fans."
The game featured seven first-time All Stars, although only one, Harden, came from the Western Conference.
Storylines How the West won
R Clippers point guard Chris Paul tallies 20 points and 15 assists to earn MVP honors.
• Kevin Durant leads all scorers with 30 points.
• The West wins its third straight All-Star Game and its fifth in the last seven years.