The West don’t always have the better starting lineup, but they usually have the much deeper team (and conference), which explains why they’ve beaten the East three times in a row in the NBA All-Star game, as Chris Paul dominated the start and finish, beating the too serious Kevin Durant for the MVP award, while LeBron James seemed to be trying a bit too hard to make this one mean something.
There is no reason to make too much of this game and find implications regarding the regular season; there aren’t any. It just portrays and magnifies certain dynamics, and shows who is more suited for this kind of game, or who simply came with the right kind of mindset to win it. When teams don’t play seriously for about 30 minutes, it’s hard to take the end result, a 143-138 win for the Western All-Stars, too seriously.
Kevin Durant might have been the man lighting up the scoreboard with 30 points, but there wasn’t an ounce of fun off to his performance. Chris Paul on the other hand, with 20 points, 15 assists and 4 steals, was the one who stole the show from the names usually mentioned in the MVP talks. Paul gave a nice push in the start with some defense to go with his alley-oop passes to Blake Griffin, and simply making excellent choices in the closing minutes while running the Western team back to the lead and the win.
There are always players you can mark down before the game as potential MVP candidates – LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving on the East; Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook, always looking but not good enough to steal the show.
When LeBron James came on to put the East back on top, he forgot that the game wasn’t about him, and a couple of bad throws from beyond the arc, emulating the Kobe Bryant of all-this-year, led the West to another run and a double digit lead. Luckily for him, Paul George was there with some sharp shooting from the corner, as a pretty interesting lineup, with Irving, James, George, Anthony and Noah brought the East back.
Maybe more minutes from Wade and Irving would have helped. Maybe Kevin Garnett playing only 6 minutes would have done better. I was really looking forward for a potential defense-athletic lineup by the East, consisting of Noah, James, Chandler, Paul George and Luol Deng on the floor. Too bad we didn’t get to see it. Noah was another player who took the game a tad too seriously, not letting anyone grab a rebound off of him, and nailing Chris Paul with an elbow to the head after Paul hit a big three pointer in his face. It was unintentional at first look, but that’s hard to believe.
The best All-Star game in pro sports still work. The weekend needs a lot of tweaking, additions and reductions to become a better show for the fans in the arena and at home, but the game itself seems to become bigger and better with each passing season. Maybe it’s just the growing star power of the league, or possibly the subterranean story lines and plots one can find when he looks for very hard. For once, someone who knew how to combine the fun and business side of the night won the MVP, deservedly.