WEST BESTS EAST IN DRAMATIC FASHION
Eric Patten @ericpatten | 2/26/12

ORLANDO–All-Star Games aren’t supposed to be this good.

With its requisite lack of defense, dunk contest style throw downs, and sometime silliness, the event is typically a grandiose exhibition. Not this time.

There were plenty of moments of candor and a seemingly endless supply of dunks, but in the end the 61st NBA All-Star Game turned into one of the most spirited of all-time.

Kevin Durant took home the MVP, Kobe Bryant bloodied his nose, Lebron James tore through the West in the second half, Blake Griffin scored three of his 22 points down the stretch, and Dwyane Wade missed a game-tying 3-point attempt at the buzzer as the Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference, 152-149, in front of 17,125 at Amway Center.

Durant scored 21 points in the first half to help the West jump out to a 39-28 lead. He finished with a team-high 36, six short of matching Wilt Chamberlains record for individual points. Durant also chipped in seven rebounds and three steals.


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“Guys were feeding me. I hit a few shots [in the first quarter], and I was being aggressive,” Durant said. “We had a good lead as well. I had an idea that I can get the award, but like I said with so many great players on the floor, you never know what can happen.”

Despite the East falling behind by as many as 21, and the lead never changing hands, the final four minutes of the game were frantic.

“Being a competitor, no matte All-Star Game or not, you don’t want to get blown out,” James said. “Of course not when you’re going against your peers and you’re going against great players, and you’re playing with great players.”

The Heat superstar, who scored 36 points with seven assists and six rebounds, knocked down consecutive 3-pointers, including a 28-foot step-back over Bryant that cut the West lead to 144-141. The frenzied crowd chanted for “De-fense” on the next possession, an All-Star Game anomaly, but Durant answered with a floater in the lane.

Clippers point guard Chris Paul (eight points, 12 assists) found Westbrook for a dunk around Magic center Dwight Howard following Carmelo Anthony’s two free throws.


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Two possessions later, with the East within one, Griffin follow dunked a wild layup attempt by Russell Westbrook (21 points). Griffin, who finished with 22 points and eight rebounds, also made 1-of-2 free throws with 1.1 seconds left after he stole an errant pass by James to put the West up for good.

Wade missed a contested 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer on the final possession. He had 24 points, 10 assists, and secured the third triple-double in All-Star Game history by snaring his tenth rebound on the offensive end in traffic late in the fourth quarter.

After the game, Griffin talked about the nature of the game as it unfolded down the stretch.

“It was fun,” Griffin said. “I think that’s what people were kind of waiting for. It was fun to see the dunks and all that through the course of the game, but in the end it’s fun when it’s a close game and it’s back and forth like that.

“I was hoping we’d just blow them out. But a team of that caliber they’re never going to let you blow them out, they’re going to get back it close and that’s what they did.

NOTES

Bryant, who was hit in the face on drive to the basket and was attended to by the West trainer for a bloody nose, became the All-Star Game’s all-time leading scorer, surpassing Michael Jordan. He finished with 27 points (271 points all-time)… James tied a record for the most 3-pointers (six)… The teams combined for 301 points, two short of the record of 303 set in 1987… The West’s 152 points were the most scored by any All-Star team in regulation. The record for points by a team (155) was set in double overtime in 2004… Paul is averaging 11.8 assists in four All-Star Games. He has been selected to five but did not play in 2010 due to injury.