HOUSTON — Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and Kobe Bryant turned this West victory into an L.A. story.
Paul had 20 points, 15 assists and won MVP honors, Bryant blocked LeBron James’ comeback attempt, and the Western Conference beat the East 143-138 on Sunday night.
Kevin Durant scored 30 points and Griffin finished with 19, joining his Clippers teammate, Paul, in creating Lob City deep in the heart of Texas.
James scored 19 points but shot only 7 of 18 after having no shooting troubles during the latter part of the season’s first half. Carmelo Anthony led the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds.
The first dunk of the game came 16 seconds in, Paul throwing a pass to Griffin as part of the West’s 7-0 start. The West led after each of the first three quarters, though was never ahead by more than eight points through three periods.
They finally pushed it into double figures early in the fourth fueled by former Oklahoma City teammates Russell Westbrook and James Harden, but couldn’t put it away until a late run behind the guys from the city of Los Angeles — who along with Lakers center Dwight Howard gave Los Angeles all but one of the West’s starting spots.
Paul hit two 3-pointers, Bryant made a layup, and his block of James led to Durant’s dunk that made it 136-126. Griffin had one last forceful dunk to help close it out, throwing a pass to himself off the backboard and climbing high in his neon green sneakers to slam it home and make it 142-134.
Harden had 15 points in his home arena, where the sights of the game were on the floor and the sounds were at the rim — which shook repeatedly after thunderous dunks for most of the game before, as usual, players tried to make some stops down the stretch.
Players’ sneakers were a variety of pastels and fluorescent colors that looked like they came right from Easter Sunday church, many clashing so badly with their multi-colored socks that they may as well have been created by spilling out random paint buckets.
James and Dwyane Wade wore purple, and Griffin’s neon look was also sported by the usually-not-so-loud Tim Duncan and Brook Lopez.
But the NBA’s high-flyers sure could leap in them.
Durant slammed one down so hard at one point that he stumbled backward after landing, appearing woozy. He came in as the career leader in points per game with 28.3 and may have won a second straight MVP award if not for Paul’s big finish.
Playing in his first-ever All-Star Game, Cleveland point guard Kyrie Irving finished with 15 points (on 6-of-11 shooting), four assists and three rebounds.