NBA All-Star Sunday Wrap-Up
Like virtually every other NBA All-Star Game you’ve watched in recent years, the 2013 edition of the greatest players in the world participating in a glorified pick-up game was a high scoring affair on Sunday. Not surprisingly, defense wasn’t a focal point for either side as contested shots were about as plausible as pop artist Ne-Yo not spending 30 minutes holding up the start of the game during pregame introductions.
The Western Conference pulled out a 143-138 victory against the Eastern Conference Sunday night behind a spectacular performance from Chris Paul, the game’s Most Valuable Player. Dominating by both scoring and getting his teammates involved, Paul put up 20 points on 70 percent shooting from the floor while dropping 15 assists and accounting for four steals in the game.
On a night where both sides set an NBA All-Star Game record by launching 71 three-pointers, there was no shortage of offensive fire power in Houston on All-Star Sunday Night.
The Western Conference got off to a hot start in the first quarter, nailing 50 percent of their shots from the field behind a couple of dominant Oklahoma City Thunder stars. Russell Westbrook scored six points off the bench and starter Kevin Durant tallied seven as the West All-Stars got out to a 31-26 lead over the East All-Star squad.
Both teams were on fire from the field throughout the second quarter, with each team’s shooting percentage hovering around a staggering 60 percent for the frame. After a subpar scoring display in the first quarter, the East and West combined to drop 77 points in the second quarter and the West took a 69-65 lead to the half. After dropping seven in the first, Durant continued his torrid start with 12 in the second to finish the half with 19 total to lead all scorers.
During a sideline interview midway through the second quarter, Kevin Garnett reiterated his desire to stay in Boston by emphasizing his team-first philosophy with the Celtics to TNT sideline reporter Craig Sager. Garnett’s name has been mentioned in various trade rumors in regards to a possible deal between Boston and the Los Angeles Clippers, but K.G. has continued to stand by the fact that he would not accept a trade. As one of just a handful of NBA players with a no-trade clause in his contract, Garnett would have that right if a trade was proposed that included the 17-year vet.
Speaking of team-first basketball, the first half as a whole saw plenty of unselfish play from both the Eastern and Western squads. Only LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Garnett finished the half without a point while 16 players finished the half with one or more assists. Leading the way was Paul with nine dimes as the Clippers point guard hit multiple teammates for easy looks at the basket, including L.A. teammate Blake Griffin.
Alicia Keys provided the halftime entertainment at the Toyota Center for the All-Star Game, alternating between the piano and a choreographed set on the stage. The multiple Grammy-award winner meshed four of her biggest hits to the delight of the crowd in Houston.
After the intermission, the Miami HEAT representatives took over to start the third quarter. LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh scored the first 14 points for the East to begin the second half and Wade finished the frame as the leading scorer for the East with 24 points. Still, despite a surge from the East, the West reserves continued to cling on to the lead in the third – finishing the quarter with a 108-104 advantage.
Heading into the fourth quarter, East head coach Erik Spoelstra characterized the final 12 minutes as “go time” for his squad and neither side failed to disappoint. It was obvious that there was a distinctly different feel throughout the fourth quarter as the intensity of the action reached a crescendo with both teams fighting for the win.
Led by eight points from first-time All-Star Kyrie Irving, and a couple of late three-pointers from another newcomer in Paul George, the East tried to rally in the fourth but to no avail. Paul was simply too much down the stretch as the game’s MVP nailed a couple of backbreaking three’s in the closing minutes to secure the victory for the West.
The most interesting aspect of a fourth quarter, in which the West led throughout, was the one-on-one battle between Kobe Bryant and the HEAT’s James. With two of the top players in the NBA today - both at the heart of some recent comments from Michael Jordan – matched up against one another to close out the fourth, it was apparent that there was some added intensity to the matchup. Guarding James on the offensive end, Bryant came up with two resounding blocks against the reigning NBA Champion and also scored two buckets of his own with James checking him.
In a quiet night for him, Bryant finished with nine points and nine assists while James finished with 19 points and five assists for the East.
Finishing the contest with a game-high 30 points was Durant, while Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. Of all the players to see action, only LaMarcus Aldridge (11 minutes, 0-2 from the field) failed to score a point.
Even with a close contest throughout and an intense matchup between James and Bryant, the NBA All Star Game still leaves much to be desired. Until there is some real incentive, and I’m not talking about a ridiculous NBA Finals caveat like Major League Baseball, the product on the floor isn’t going to improve. A realistic approach would be to offer a substantial monetary payout to the winners over All-Star Weekend, an all-or-nothing approach where the winners get a large payday and the losers walk away with nothing.
Until then, NBA fans will be left with more of the same of what they saw throughout this All-Star weekend – for better or worse.