HOUSTON (Reuters) - Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin provided a potent mix of outside shooting and inside dominance to lift the Western Conference to a 143-138 victory over the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star game on Sunday.
Durant scored 30 points and Griffin added 19, on nine-of-11 shooting, but the Most Valuable Player Award went to Chris Paul, who scored 20 points and added 15 assists for the West.
Paul told Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer and last year’s All-Star game MVP, to expect to see the ball in his hands.
“I told KD early in the first quarter, ‘Man, if they score anything, you run. I’ll get you the ball, you score. I want to be the one to give it to you,'” recalled the Los Angeles Clippers guard.
“In games like this it’s so up-tempo and fast paced, a guy like me that’s a facilitator, I enjoy it.”
Carmelo Anthony of the New York Knicks paced the East with 26 points, followed by Miami guard Dwyane Wade, who had 21, and LeBron James, who added 19.
Durant hit 13-of-24 shots to lead the West to a third straight victory in the annual showcase that features little defense, a lot of dunks, and plenty of assists for anyone who decides to pass.
”I‘m just out there having fun,“ Oklahoma City forward Durant said. ”I played a lot of street basketball. I played a lot of celebrity games.
“This is my type of ballgame, up and down.”
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, a three-time MVP of the game, dueled James several times in the fourth quarter and came out on top. James nailed seven-of-18 shots but misfired on all four fourth-quarter attempts.
James, a forward with the Miami Heat, said he was not startled to see the smaller Bryant guarding him with the game on the line.
“He does it all the time,” James said. “I am absolutely not surprised. It was all in good spirit. It was just two guys that love to compete, love to go at it. It was a lot of fun.”
The West held a three-point, fourth-quarter lead but a 25-foot, three-pointer by Paul, a driving lay-up by Bryant, and a dunk by Durant pushed the lead to 136-126 with 2:34 left.
Anthony said at halftime with the West leading 69-65 his East team mates decided “we were going to go after it”.
”Everybody competed,“ he said. ”We get guys out there of that calibre, they’re going to compete. Nobody likes to lose.
“At the end of the day, we’re all basketball players, we’re all competitors.”
The sell-out Toyota Center crowd of 16,101 roared its approval at the array of alley-oop baskets, sprints to the hoop, and the rim-rattling dunks by Griffin, Paul’s team mate with the Clippers.
West coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs praised both teams, saying: “Those guys are the best in the world and they competed and worked hard.”
“They respected the game,” he said. “They respected each other. Nobody got hurt. The fans had a great time. That’s what it’s all about.” (Editing by John O‘Brien)