Kobe Bryant got the scoring record, Kevin Durant the MVP, and the West got the win – barely.
Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant scored 36 points to lead the Western Conference All-Stars to a 152-149 victory against the Eastern Conference All-Stars in the 2012 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday night, earning MVP honors in the process. The game proved to be about as dramatic as one without any lead-changes can be, as the East rallied from a deficit that reached as many as 20 points in the final period to draw to within one point twice in the final two minutes, only to come up short. LeBron James had 36 points, six rebounds, and seven assists for the East, while Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade posted a 24-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist triple-double.
James and Deron Williams helped lead the East’s comeback effort as each hit a pair of three-pointers in the final period. Williams ignited the Amway Center crowd by stealing a Durant inbounds pass under the basket and laying the ball in to bring the East to within a point. After forcing a LA Lakers Kobe Bryant miss, the East had a chance to claim its first lead of the game on a fast break, but Wade lost the ball out of bounds on what should have been an easy layup attempt.
And, in a twist that’ll be debated throughout the media in the days ahead, James turned the ball over with two seconds left and his team trailing by two points. Williams’ go-ahead three-point try missed the mark, but New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony made an impressive back-tap to keep the ball alive for the East. James recovered the ball, but fumbled it away before the East could call timeout or get anything going. It was the 19th turnover of the night for the host conference, which was one of the factors that contributed to its defeat: the West scored 30 points off the East’s turnovers.
The game got off to a horrid start, with the East somehow managing to shoot 43.3 percent in the first period of an All-Star Game. The silliness progressed from there, as one might expect, given the low-intensity, low-stakes nature of the event. The West’s 88 first-half points set a new record for All-Star scoring in a half, which is as good an indicator of the quality of play through the first 24 minutes as any.
But in the third quarter, the game turned and all the players on both sides seemed to wake up. James hit three three-pointers in the first three minutes after halftime, helping the East cut the West’s lead from 21 to 12. Wade’s hard foul of a driving Bryant at the 8:48 mark–it drew blood! in an All-Star Game!–signaled the East meant business, and would not be content to let the West continue to pile up the points. Bryant declined to address the media after the game due to a headache he suffered on that foul.
Durant had plenty of help in leading the West to its second consecutive victory. Bryant scored 27, though he shot just 4-of-11 after the first period, while Russell Westbrook scored 21 points in 28 minutes off the bench, giving the East fits with his speed and leaping ability. Kevin Love scored eight of his quiet 17 points in the fourth quarter to help the West hold off the East.
In all, the players rewarded the City of Orlando with an All-Star Game for the ages, despite the low-energy first half. Several records fell: Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the career All-Star scoring list; the East made 14 three-pointers; the teams combined for 301 points; Wade tallied the third triple-double in All-Star history; and Durant and James nearly broke Wilt Chamberlain’s record for single-game All-Star scoring (42 points).