NBA All-Star Game 2013: Complete Recap, Grades and Analysis
Chris Paul took home the MVP trophy and Kevin Durant led all scorers with 30 points, but most people will be talking about the surprisingly heated stretch between Kobe Bryant and LeBron James. Apparently, Bryant felt the need to turn the effort up to "10" in order to remind James that he wasn't happy about slipping a notch below the King in the NBA hierarchy.
For a few fourth-quarter minutes, Bryant channeled Michael Jordan's legendarily psychotic competitiveness, blocking a pair of James shots in one-on-one situations.
We haven't yet scratched the surface of a highly entertaining affair, so we'll break things down more thoroughly with a few postgame grades.
Eastern Conference All-Stars
James got things going early with a few high-flying slams—one of which came courtesy of a nice lob by East teammate Carmelo Anthony.
LBJ finished the night with 19 points and five assists, but he actually struggled from the field. His 7-of-18 performance looked nothing like the string of 60 percent shooting games he'd been putting together over the past few weeks of the regular season.
And, of course, any recap of his evening would be incomplete without another treatment of Bryant's five-minute vendetta.
One of the key criticisms of James throughout his career has been that he lacks a killer instinct. All-Star games certainly aren't forums to prove you're capable of getting after it, but the disparity between a clearly motivated Bryant and James' more easygoing demeanor was on full display during the fourth quarter.
In some ways, it was a little pathetic that Bryant chose to "surprise" everyone (including James) with a sudden burst of effort. But those two blocks also might have served to teach James a lesson: When you're the best, you can never, ever let up.
We'll see if he takes Bryant's teachings to heart during the rest of the season.
Final Grade: B-
After winning the Three-Point Shootout and providing one of the most memorable highlights (sorry, Brandon Knight) Saturday, all Kyrie Irving had to do to completely steal the show was put together an MVP-worthy performance in Sunday's main event.
Instead, he simply had a good game.
Irving totaled 15 points and four assists on 6-of-11 shooting and displayed the same slick handle that he featured in the Rising Stars Challenge. But he didn't quite do enough to stand out for more than a handful of plays.
Don't worry, Kyrie, there'll be about 15 more chances for you to dominate the All-Star game.
Final Grade: B
Even in exhibitions where the players are only half trying, there still have to be losers. Apologies, Chris Bosh, you're the unlucky one tonight.
Western Conference guards (particularly Paul and Tony Parker) seemed to enjoy making a game of "nutmegging" Bosh. On two separate occasions, little men abused Bosh on a switch by bouncing the ball through his legs as they drove around him.
It was great to watch, but on top of Bosh's rough shooting night, it felt a little like the Heat center was being picked on. Still, fair is fair—he earned the "F" in this one.
Final Grade: F
It's as though All-Star games were built for Carmelo Anthony. Nobody plays defense, the shots come free and easy, and Amar'e Stoudemire's not around to clog up the lane.
Clearly comfortable in his ideal environment, Melo pumped in 26 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in a team-high 31 minutes. His numbers came in a losing effort, but seeing as how nobody else on his team played defense (except for Joakim Noah, who we'll get to momentarily), the fallback criticism of Anthony's one-dimensional game is invalid.
Anthony did what you're supposed to do in games like this—score.
Final Grade: B+
You've got to love the effort of Noah. So fierce (and out of place) was his competitive spirit that you'd have thought Chicago Bulls coach and noted disciplinarian Tom Thibodeau was secretly controlling his workhorse center's performance.
Noah hustled, ran back on defense and hit the glass. He scored eight points and pulled down 10 boards in just 16 minutes.
And as I mentioned earlier, the glass wasn't all he hit. Just ask Paul.
Because nobody has ever played an All-Star game like it was the last one of his life, Noah gets a special grade.
Final Grade: A for effort
Western Conference All-Stars
While Noah played hard every second he was on the floor, Bryant turned things up for just about six minutes. But his sudden effort spike had a purpose. He was trying to send a message to LeBron James.
Kobe finished with just nine points and eight assists on 4-of-9 shooting, but his two blocks will be the enduring statistical takeaway from Sunday's game. They symbolized his complete antipathy to let the alpha dog collar slip away without a fight.
Final Grade: A-
Durant pumped in 19 first-half points and punctuated them with a few appropriately Thunderous dunks.
For the bulk of the game, it certainly appeared that KD had a solid grip on the MVP award, and his final total of 30 points were more than anyone managed on either team. But his scoring output couldn't match Paul's overall offensive dominance.
Still, KD has plenty to be proud of.
By eclipsing the 30-point mark for the third straight All-Star game, Durant set a new NBA record. In fact, he broke his own mark, as nobody before him had ever pulled off the feat in even two consecutive All-Star contests.
It certainly helped that he got up 24 shots, but with so many of them being of the rim-rattling variety, it's hard to fault him for that.
Final Grade: A-
You're not going to believe this, but Blake Griffin got in a few dunks during the 2013 All-Star Game. Amazing, right?
Griffin was the beneficiary of a handful of lobs from Paul, which made the game look an awful lot like most of the regular-season contests the two have played this year.
Considering Griffin dominated the commercial breaks with his consistently excellent Kia ads and threw down plenty of highlight jams, he's deserving of high marks. He ended up with 19 points on 9-of-11 dunking...I mean "shooting."
Final Grade: B+
Thanks to some less-than-committed defense, assists weren't all that tough to come by. But that's no reason to penalize CP3, who took advantage of plenty of open passing lanes en route to 15 dimes and the game's highest individual honor.
CP3 found Griffin plenty of times for a few of their signature Lob City specials and spent the fourth quarter torching the East from long distance.
For his troubles, Paul took home a trophy, but also received a busted lip at the hands (elbows, actually) of Noah. Who says everybody takes it easy in the All-Star game?
Final Grade: A
It's got to be tough to be the only player on the West team to put up a goose egg. I mean, they scored 143 points as a whole, so you'd think LaMarcus Aldridge could have found his way to one measly bucket.
But alas, it wasn't to be.
Aldridge went scoreless, and only got up a pair of shots in 11 minutes. KG also failed to score, but his appearance for the East was a little different—he was just around to start, say "hi" to everyone, and sit back down.
To his credit, L.A. found other ways to contribute, pulling down four boards and blocking a pair of shots. But zero points? Really?
Sometimes, you have to make the tough decisions when you're handing out very official grades such as these. With a heavy heart, I hereby fail Aldridge.
Final Grade: F
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