CHRIS PAUL’S MVP PERFORMANCE CARRIES WEST TO WIN
HOUSTON – Twice in the fourth quarter Chris Paul sized up big men from the Eastern Conference, dragging them to the 3-point line before burying a jumper over them.
The two shots, as well as a right-handed layup and a lob to regular-season teammate Blake Griffin, helped Paul carry the Western Conference down the stretch and capture his first All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award. The West won, 143-138, Sunday at Toyota Center.
Paul scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4-for-5 from long range) with a game-high 15 assists and four steals and afterwards said the MVP was not something he set his sights on entering the sixth All-Star game of his eight-year career.
“It’s something that I’ve never done,” Paul said. “It’s something that I definitely didn’t come into the game trying to achieve or think would even be possible.”
Paul earned eight of a possible 12 votes with Kobe Bryant receiving two votes and Kevin Durant and LeBron James each receiving one. He is the first player in team history and second in franchise history to secure the award. Randy Smith won the 1978 All-Star MVP while playing for the Buffalo Braves.
“I didn’t really think about [what was needed to win the award,” Paul said. “At the end of the day we just wanted to win that’s all we were thinking about. In the third quarter, fourth quarter, we wanted to win the game.”
Paul was the most prominent factor in securing the win. He scored eight points in a five-possession span for the West, extending a five-point game to 11 with 1:57 to go. The personal run included 3-pointers over Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Paul said of the shot over Chicago’s defensive-minded center. “Part of me wanted to try some moves and try to get by him. I love his defense, his energy and stuff like that. He’s one of the best, if not the best, big man defenders, especially on the ball screens. He just backed up so I figured I’d shoot it.”
Paul was efficient with his shooting throughout, saying he did not shoot unless he was open or the shot clock was narrowing down. He also controlled the game in every way during his 27 minutes. In many ways, it was like watching a regular season game with the Clippers. He converted six of his 15 assists to Blake Griffin, who finished with 19 points including nine dunks; his best coming on an over-the-shoulder lob out of pick and roll with Paul.
When the game was on the line he organized the offense and went to work.
“I thought he was great,” fellow West guard Tony Parker said. “You know, CP (Paul) he gets a lot of assists and made a big shot at the end.”
Paul’s friend and two-time All-Star MVP LeBron James added: “He was unbelievable. He’s one of the best we have in the league. The number one point guard we have in this league and it doesn’t surprise me what he did on the floor tonight.”
For Paul, though, the tempo of the All-Star game, which according to East head coach Erik Spoelstra was slightly more defensive oriented than usual, played right into his hands.
“I told [Durant] early in the first quarter, I said, ‘Man, if they score anything just run. I’m going to get you the ball. You score. I just want to be the one to get it to you,’” Paul said. “Games like this it’s so up-tempo and fast-paced that a guy like me that’s a facilitator and gets it to other people, I enjoy games like this.
“You just want to play fast. I like to throw the lobs. I like to see guys hitting threes and when you’re out there on the court with all that firepower why not play fast. You’ve got [Durant] filling one of the lanes, you’ve got Blake, you’ve got [Kobe Byrant] on the wing. There’s nothing like it.”