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West win third in row over East in All-Stars Paul named MVP

HOUSTON, Texas, Feb 18, (AFP):  Chris Paul scored 20 points and passed out 15 assists to spark the Western Conference over the Eastern Conference 143-138 on Sunday in the 62nd NBA All-Star Game.
NBA scoring leader Kevin Durant had a game-high 30 points for the West and Paul’s Los Angeles Clippers teammate Blake Griffin added 19 points, both of them jamming down spectacular slam dunks thanks to set-up passes from Paul. Clippers guard Paul was voted the NBA All-Star Game’s Most Valuable Player as the West won the annual showdown of elite hoops talent for the third time in a row and fourth time in five games. “You just never expect something like this,” Paul said. “All these great players I have the chance to play with, it’s an honor and a privilege.”

Paul joined Magic Johnson and Isiah Thomas as the only All-Star Game players to produce at least 20 points and 15 assists in one game. “To be mentioned with those guys, it’s an honor,” Paul said. “To be on the court with all these guys I don’t get the chance to play with, it’s an privilege.” Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds while LeBron James added 19 points and Paul George contributed 17.
The West led 69-65 at half-time and had the same margin, 108-104, entering the fourth quarter when a showy game of dunks and flashy moves found intensity.

Back-to-back 3-pointers by Kyrie Irving pulled the East within 119-118, but Durant had two slam dunks in an 8-2 West run to boost the lead to 127-120. Anthony sparked a 6-2 East run to pull his side within 129-126 but Paul followed with a 3-pointer and Kobe Bryant played tight defense on James in what became a man-on-man rivalry between playmakers in the final minutes. Bryant made a driving layup and blocked a James shot to set up a fast break slam dunk by Durant to put the West ahead 136-126. Bryant later added another block of James as the two traded taunts on the court.

Durant became the first player to score at least 30 points in three consecutive NBA All-Star Games. Paul answered an East basket with his fourth 3-pointer of the game and after George hit back-to-back 3-pointers, Griffin answered with a free throw and a fast break slam dunk that included a pass to himself off the backboard. Spectacular slam dunks by James, Durant and Griffin produced the most sparkling moments of the first half. Dwyane Wade set up Miami teammate James for the East but made one of his best passes to Tyson Chandler for a running one-handed alley-oop jam while Bryant and Paul kept Durant and Griffin set up for dunks. “If they run, I have fun just assisting and passing the ball,” Paul said. Durant made 8-of-12 shots for 19 points in the first half while every basket by Griffin in the first half came on a slam dunk.

Big men Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan tried to see who could sink a rare 3-pointer first while guards took turns dribbling between the legs of rivals as the players used the light-hearted matchup for fun moments that regular NBA games rarely allow. “You need a three, give it to me,” West center Howard said. Before the game, played on the 50th birthday of NBA legend Michael Jordan, James — a modern-day displayer of Jordan’s gravity-defying, high-leaping moves — tweeted his best wishes to six-time NBA champion Jordan. “Happy 50th MJ! U inspired a kid from Akron Ohio without u even knowing,” James tweeted. “All by just playing the game u loved. I appreciate what u did for the game and don’t take it for granted.” James ended the messages with the hashtag GOAT for Greatest of All Time.

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