Russell Westbrook exploded for 41 points to lead the Western Conference to a 163-158 victory over the East in the 64th NBA All-Star Game on Sunday.
The Oklahoma City Thunder guard showed off his dazzling athleticism with a series of high-flying dunks, once slamming home an alley-oop pass from Chris Paul with his head above the rim.
Having set a first-half scoring record with 27 points in just over 11 minutes, Westbrook went on to hit 16 of 28 shots — including five three-pointers — and added three steals as he was named the game’s Most Valuable Player (MVP).
Westbrook came within one point of the All-Star record of 42 points scored by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962, and finished one point better than Michael Jordan’s 40 scored in the 1988 game.
“It’s definitely an honor to be grouped with those two guys, especially in an All-Star game,” Westbrook said. “We were just trying to win the game and close it out.”
Leading the way for the East was four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, who posted 30 points.
James praised the talented Westbrook.
“He’s unbelievable,” the Cleveland Cavaliers forward said. “He’s an unbelievable talent in our league. His motor, his athleticism, his demeanor about how he approaches the game, it’s all great. It’s great for our league.”
Kyle Korver of the Atlanta Hawks added 21 points for the East, hitting seven-of-12 from three-point range, while James Harden matched him from beyond the arc in scoring 29 for the winners.
The game made All-Star history right from the start, as the Gasol brothers lined up for the opening tap as the first siblings ever to start the mid-season classic.
Pau Gasol of the Bulls won the tip from younger brother Marc of the Grizzlies and the game was on.
“The opening tip was fun,” West coach Steve Kerr said. “Just to see them jumping against each other and to think about them growing up in Spain.”
“Whoever would have guessed that one day they would jump center at the All-Star game at Madison Square Garden. That was a special moment,” he said.
With the players on both sides enjoying free-wheeling dashes up and down the floor, turning floating feeds into thundering dunks, the sides combined for 321 points, the most ever in an NBA All-Star game.
Besides bragging rights, the winning West team players pocketed US$50,000, double the amount taken away by the losers.
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