By Nick Gallo, Thunder Basketball Writer
Feb. 17, 2013
ALL-STAR SUNDAY RECAP:
HOUSTON -- All of the appearances, competitions and sponsored events during All-Star Weekend are fun, but they really serve as a build up to the real highlight of the weekend – the All-Star Game on Sunday night.
At the Toyota Center in Houston, the Thunder duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook put on quite a show as they represented Oklahoma City. Invariably, the statistics in All-Star games get a little out of hand, but with the collection of talent on the floor, it’s easy to understand how the Western Conference and Eastern Conference teams could combine for a 116-for-221 (52.5 percent) shooting night like they did tonight. The West themselves shot a blistering 55.4 percent from the field as Durant with 13-for-24 from the floor en route to 30 points and Westbrook had 14 points on 7-for-13 shooting.
“It was a lot of fun, I didn’t want it to be over,” Durant said. “It’s also great playing with all of these guys. They make it fun, they make the whole weekend fun. It’s a blessing to be here.”
Those Western Conference teammates included game MVP Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin, Dwight Howard, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, James Harden, Zach Randolph, LaMarcus Aldridge and David Lee. Squaring off against the East was all fun and games in the first half as the teams put on a show for the fans with high-flying action. The West clung to a four point lead at halftime and at the end of three quarters, and clamped down defensively to pull off a five-point victory.
“It was fun at first, and then we wanted to win,” Westbrook said. “It ends my weekend off right.”
Westbrook added four reboudns, three assists and a steal to his 14 points, while Durant had six rebounds, two steals and an assist along with his game-high 30 points. In fact, Durant became the first player to ever record three-straight 30-point efforts in All-Star games and also has scored the most total points out of any player in their first four All-Star appearances.
In fact, the four-time All-Star and three-time NBA scoring champion currently holds the highest scoring average in All-Star history at 28.3 points per game. It seems that even in this setting that pits the best players in the world against one another, Durant excels in the scoring column.
“I’m shooting a lot of shots,” Durant joked. “I’m just out there having fun. I think this is my setting. I played a lot of street basketball… This is my type of ball game, up and down. Playing with so many great players, they make it easy.”
Durant hit three three-point attempts but did most of his work in the paint, where the West scored 88 of its 143 points and in transition, where the West tallied 38 fast break points. Durant seemingly made dunk after dunk in this game, whether it was spinning baseline for a jam, taking slick bounce passes from Paul on cuts to the lane or on breakaways. The biggest highlight for Durant came early when he found himself alone on a fast break and slammed home an amazing two-handed, reverse windmill jam.
“I was a little scared when I went up there that I might have missed,” Durant said. “But I’m glad it went in and I’m glad to give the fans a show.”
It should be no surprise that Westbrook got in on the high-flying, rim-rocking action as well. His 14 points came on a few mid-range jumpers but he also added a monster alley-oop jam, an acrobatic reverse layup in traffic and a finger roll where he changed hands with the ball in mid-air. It was wonderful to see the Thunder duo that holds such ownership in the way the Thunder organization has grown and develop over the past five years display their skills when all the NBA eyes were watching.
“It means a lot,” Durant said of sharing these experiences with Westbrook and representing Oklahoma City. “It’s just a blessing that we get to represent where we come from in OKC. We just have to embrace it all and know that 10, 15 years down the line when we’re done playing, we will remember these times together as a pair. It was a privilege and hopefully I get to come back next year.”
That long-view mindset of how he and Westbrook will remember these times is one that also stems from their shared past present and future with the Thunder organization. Both players have team-first mentalities and after a long weekend in Houston that accentuated their individual talents, both men are ready to get back to work with the rest of their Thunder teammates and the coaching staff led by Head Coach Scott Brooks.
When asked what he was looking forward to next, Westbrook already seemed to have shifted focus from All-Star Weekend to his team’s next regular season game, Wednesday night on the road against the Houston Rockets. With just 29 games remaining in the regular season, the Thunder as a whole will be laser-focused coming out of a fun and restful break.
“Just getting back with my team, getting ready to go and finishing the second half off,” Westbrook said.