Kyrie Irving and Carmelo Anthony set aside the unrest with their respective teams and put on a dazzling show that vaulted the Eastern Conference to a 163-155 comeback victory over the Western Conference in the highest-scoring NBA All-Star game ever on Sunday.
Irving scored 15 of his team-high 31 points in the back-and-forth fourth quarter duel and added 14 assists to seize MVP honors at the showcase in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“It’s a great honor,” Irving told reporters after making 14 of 17 shots and helping the East end a stretch of three straight defeats to the West.
“We had a few MVPs. Everyone out here today is an MVP,” he added.
Anthony added 30 and made an All-Star record eight three-pointers, including a crucial one that gave the East a four-point lead with 1 minute, 4 seconds remaining.
The East side trailed by 18 late in the third quarter, but rallied to light up the scoreboard in record-breaking fashion.
Their final total set a new mark, while the combined score of both teams was also a record.
For the West, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin fired off 38 points apiece and shone as brightly as anyone with flamboyant dunks and long-range three-pointers.
“It’s an All-Star Game and not a whole lot of defense is being played,” Blake said. “This game is for the fans to put on a show and just have fun with it.”
The East got the final say, led by two players who likely needed the All-Star break more than most.
Anthony has been the subject of much speculation as he is set to become a free agent in the offseason and could leave the underachieving New York Knicks, although he reiterated his commitment to the franchise last weekend.
The third-year Irving is said to be unhappy in Cleveland, where he has reportedly clashed with his teammates and coach during yet another losing season.
However, he looked happy on Sunday as he gelled with fellow standouts such as LeBron James, who finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
The East trailed 123-105 in the third before closing the quarter with an 18-3 run.
The final quarter was a seesaw battle of game-stopping plays and lead changes.
Durant drilled a three-pointer that put the West on top 155-153 with just under two minutes left, but the East finished with the game’s final 10 points.
The All-Star weekend cemented the league’s change at the top, where Adam Silver has replaced former NBA commissioner David Stern, who stepped down after 30 years at the post.
On the court, first-time All Stars like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, John Wall and DeMar DeRozan filled the absence of regulars like Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan, signalling a changing of the guard.