On his home court and on the cusp of history, Kobe Bryant could not be denied. Bryant scored 37 while grabbing 14 boards, powering the Western Conference to its 24th victory at the NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles, beating the Eastern Conference All-Stars 148-143. Bryant, who collected three assists and three steals on top of his double-double, was named All-Star Game MVP for the fourth time, tying him with St. Louis Hawks Hall-of-Famer Bob Pettit for most all time.
Bryant faced his stiffest competition from teammate Kevin Durant, who scored 34 points, including draining four three-pointers.
From the East, LeBron James became just the second player ever behind Michael Jordan to record a triple-double in an All-Star Game. James scored 29 points while grabbing 12 rebounds and dishing out 10 assists, all team highs.
Amare Stoudemire also scored 29 points for the East, which has split its last eight All-Star Games with the West. This might have less to do with equal talent levels and more to do with equal motivation (or lack thereof). Neither team played much defense, although the West did steal the ball 18 times, mainly behind Chris Paul.
Why the East Lost
The East played too loose with the ball early on, turning the ball over ten times in the first half. What was a 10-point West lead after one quarter became a 12-point lead after two and a 17-point lead after three.
The East made a game of it at the end, spurred by strong fourth-quarter play from James and teammate Chris Bosh (14 points to lead all East reserves), closing the gap to single digits. But an ill-conceived Bosh three-pointer when the East only needed two and two key free-throws by Durant sealed the victory for the West.
The East finished the game with 21 turnovers. The West only committed 15.
The East also had serious difficulty rebounding and limiting the West to single possessions. Though they only lost the overall rebound battle 61-54, the East allowed 27 offensive rebounds. When you’re playing against terrific shooters like Bryant and Durant, you can’t give up 27 second chances and expect to win.
The Boston Celtics sent four players to the All-Star Game: Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo. It was the first time four teammates had all been named to the All-Star Game since the 2006 Detroit Pistons. That group combined for just 23 points, and this one didn’t do much better, combining for just 28. Allen led the Celtics with 12 points, including two three-pointers. His second came with just nine seconds left in the game and cut the West’s lead to 146-143.
The other three Celtics combined for 16 points- four for Garnett and six for both Pierce and Rondo. East head coach Doc Rivers used Garnett and Pierce sparingly, the two players combining for just 19 minutes. Rondo led the East reserves with eight assists.
All four Celtics checked in for the first time together, at 6:37 left in the first quarter. The Staples Center showered them with boos, which quickly turned to derisive laughs when Allen air-balled a three-point attempt.
Miami’s Big Three, on the other hand, combined for 57 points. Dwyane Wade scored 14 points in just 20 minutes of play, fewest of any Eastern starter, before leaving the game in the third quarter with a tweaked ankle.
Pissing Off Everyone Not from the United States 101
The NBA wanted to honor its international players before the game, which was a lovely idea. But the way they did it was so ham-handed and ridiculous that it bordered on offensive. First, they sang the Canadian national anthem. And don’t get me wrong: Melanie Fiona did a fine job with “O Canada.” Only problem: none of the All-Stars are from Canada. In fact, there are only five Canadians playing in the NBA right now, the same as the number of Turkish players in the NBA (and same number of 2011 All-Stars… zero). The most current international players actually come from France, but I guess playing “La Marseillaise” would somehow seem un-American.
To make matters worse, they then let Spaniard Pau Gasol introduce the All-Star Game, because apparently all the international fans who aren’t from Canada know Spanish. The player I most felt sorry for was Dirk Nowitzki, which was surprising. I usually don’t feel bad for German people.
Really? Lenny Kravitz?
The NBA chose Lenny Kravitz to headline the pre-game concert. His music, which could generously be described as combining the worst aspects of the Guess Who and Jimi Hendrix, has gotten even slower and less creative since he entered his 40s. The crowd was clearly not into it, as there were maybe two very brief crowd-shots during the entire performance.
It was a truly baffling decision, given how young this crop of NBA All-Stars is. Let’s not forget that the last time Lenny Kravitz was relevant (“Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me”), Blake Griffin was 10. Celebrity game MVP Justin Bieber was 5.