Paul gets MVP as West tops East in NBA all-star game
HOUSTON — LeBron James had the ball in his hands and a comeback on his mind.
Kobe Bryant blocked those plans — twice.
He may not leap like Blake Griffin, but Bryant can still get up when he needs to, especially when the defenceless part of the All-Star game is over and it’s time to stop somebody — even the league’s best player.
Bryant blocked James’ jumper, turning it into a dunk by Kevin Durant that helped the Western Conference put away the East 143-138 on Sunday.
On Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, the players most often compared to him turned the final minutes into a 1-on-1 duel, and it went to Bryant — the guy Jordan said he’d pick between the two.
“It was a great block,” Durant said. “I haven’t really seen any MVP get a jumper blocked like that. It was a really great play.”
Chris Paul had 20 points, 15 assists and won MVP honours, and Durant scored 30 points. 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.”
Bryant added a second late block of James, the MVP of the 2006 game here after leading a big East comeback. This time, he scored 19 points but shot only 7 of 18 after making 60 per cent of his shots in six straight games before the break.
“I’m known for my defence. I can defend. I’m pretty smart with my defence,” said Bryant, who got the nod from Jordan over James based on his five championship rings.
Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
“I think we played really good defence 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.”
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 centre 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.