This season’s All-Stars were treated to a rock-‘n-roller’s welcome by Lenny Kravitz; each player’s name announced with a blare of electronic guitars and drums pounding in the background. After some opening words from the L.A. All-Stars Kobe Bryant, Blake Griffin and Pau Gasol (said in both Spanish and in English), the NBA’s best took to the floor to put on an unforgettable show.
It’s usually a tough call, guessing which team is more stacked over the other. The East All-Stars were comprised mostly of veterans, with Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo making up the team’s youth. The West All-Stars were filled with young guns Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love and rookie and Slam Dunk Champ, Blake Griffin. With a slew of future multiple All-Stars, the pace of this year’s game was a quick one, with the West scoring 37 points in the first quarter to the East’s 27. The second quarter put on another offensive display, with the West scoring 39 points and the East putting in 37.
There weren’t a lot of familiar offensive systems or defensive schemes to be seen in a game with this myriad of players from a myriad of teams, but there were no shortages of fantastic play. There was Kobe Bryant stripping Dwyane Wade and throwing it to a running Kevin Durant for an uncontested dunk. There was Amar’e Stoudemire lobbing to Dwight Howard for a slam. Deron Williams sending a long bouncepass to a sprinting Blake Griffin for a signature dunk. Bryant rebounding his own missed free throw and hitting a jumper. Pau Gasol running a little triangle, passing to Manu Ginobli who passed to Bryant for yet another dunk. For a game filled with gifted scorers, every player seemed happy to share the ball. The East finished with 38 assists on 57 made field goals, and the West had 34 assists on 59 made shots.
In a game filled with the NBA’s top players, guided by Championship coaches Greg Popovich and Doc Rivers, there were still those who stood above the rest.
For the East, it was LeBron James and Amar’e Stoudemire leading the way. For all the grief that LeBron James endured upon getting introduced to L.A.’s home crowd, the East would not have been able to close the double-digit lead had it not been for his play. He finished with a triple double 29 points on 10-18, 12 rebounds and 10 assists. Stoudemire also finished with 29 points on 11-20. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough for the clutchness of the West.
Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant were clearly the leaders on the West, with Pau Gasol helping right along. Gasol had 17 points on 8-13, adding 7 rebounds. Durant had 34 points on 11-23, scoring a short jumper, followed by a three pointer late in the fourth quarter to transform the West’s 2-point lead back to a comfortable seven points. He could have easily been the MVP for today’s game, but that honor, for the fourth time in his career, belonged to Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant said after the game that he wanted to help put on a good show for an arena filled with L.A.’s basketball fans, and he didn’t disappoint. After the first half, he led all scores with 21 points on 8-14; finishing with 37 points on 14-26, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. He hit four three pointers, went baseline for a two-handed dunk, and in the end, he just appeared to be having the time of his life. He joked around with his colleagues on both teams, tapped LeBron James on the bottom after dunking on him, interrupting Carmelo Anthony’s interview with Craig Sager, saying that Anthony would no longer be answering anymore questions. “Big brother has spoken,” he said, his arms around Anthony. After being presented with his MVP award, Bryant said the he wanted to play his best and put on a good show for the fans of Los Angeles, who may be seeing him for the last time as an All-Star in this city. It was a bittersweet acceptance speech for the 4-time All-Star MVP, and even moreso for his loyal fans, who are honored and proud to have been true witnesses to Bryant’s greatness, but who are saddened to even consider an NBA could exist without him.
Pre-game Thoughts: Showtime in the show business capital. East at West – It’s always difficult to gage what the All-Star game will bring, but judging from the roster of younger generation players like Blake Griffin, Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, it should be an exciting contest.
Half-time Thoughts: 64-76 – The West is running this game, literally, collecting 9 steals and scoring on the fast break. Kobe Bryant leads all scores with 21 points on 8-14, 6 rebounds and 3 steals. Kevin Durant has 15 points himself with Pau Gasol not far behind with 12. Chris Bosh leads the East with 12 points on 6-6. Chris Paul’s buzzer-beating floater may provide the West with some momentum going into the second half, but the East made runs in the first to cut the deficit, which probably won’t change in the second.
Most Thoughtless Player(s) of the Game: It was an almost-blowout that turned into an exciting game until the very last second. No thoughtlessness tonight.
Most Thought-filled Player(s) of the Game: Kobe Bryant got the MVP and it was truly deserved, but Kevin Durant wasn’t too shabby either. If not for his jumper and three late in the fourth, it would have been a different game in the end.