Defense is always optional at the NBA All-Star Game, but it was virtually nonexistent in the 2014 version in New Orleans.
The Eastern Conference knocked off the Western Conference to the tune of 163-155 in a game that was filled with highlight-reel plays, high-flying dunks, impressive handles and long-range shooting.
Kyrie Irving was named the MVP with 31 points, 14 assists and five rebounds behind 14-of-17 shooting.
Perhaps the biggest proof that defense wasn't even considered is the fact that multiple players seemingly had a chance to knock off Wilt Chamberlain's All-Star Game record of 42 points at some point in the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin both came the closest with 38 points.
Coming into the game, the focus was all on the potential one-on-one matchup between Durant and LeBron James. The official Twitter page of Turner Sports PR notified us of Durant’s intentions heading into the contest:
Durant on Sunday's ASG: "I want to play 1-on-1 w/ somebody on Sun...we’ll see how that goes.” Sager: “LeBron?” Durant: “Probably, yeah.”— TurnerSportsPR (@TurnerSportsPR) February 15, 2014
Neither disappointed, as can be seen by their final stat lines:
While East won the game, you can make the judgment on who won the supposed head-to-head battle based on the statistics alone. For what it's worth, the nod here goes to Durant.
Durant was a major factor in the 89 points that the West scored in the first half, which was good enough for an all-time record. The Oklahoma City star had 22 at intermission.
The lead at the half was 89-76, but the East closed with an impressive 18-3 run in the final 4:30 of the third quarter to make it a game again.
While the fact that the East won the game is certainly notable, individual statistics when the world’s best players are all on the same floor at once are more interesting than who won an exhibition game in the middle of the season.
Stephen Curry, who is widely considered one of the best (if not the top) three-point shooters in the entire NBA, finished with a disappointing 2-of-11 clip from downtown. In a game that featured 30 made threes, it was certainly surprising that the game’s best shooter didn’t contribute more from behind the arc.
ESPN Stats & Info pointed out just how important the three-point shot was to the game:
Teams combined for All-Star Game record 100 3-point attempts (previous record was 71 in 2013).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) February 17, 2014
One player who did not struggle from downtown was Carmelo Anthony. He shot 8-of-13 from behind the three-point line and finished with 30 points, five rebounds and two assists. It was an All-Star Game record for made three-pointers.
Amidst all the trade rumors and discussion about his future, Anthony proved he absolutely belonged on the same floor as the rest of the All-Stars.
Elsewhere in the East, as mentioned, Irving finished with an astounding 31 points, 14 assists and five rebounds behind 14-of-17 shooting. He thrived alongside James, which probably had Cleveland Cavaliers fans who have ideas of James returning to play alongside the Cleveland point guard seeing visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.
The West received an incredible performance from Griffin, who has been on an absolute tear in February.
He scored 38 points, grabbed six rebounds and tallied two steals. He also set the record for most field goals made in an All-Star game with 19.
Chris Paul recently called Griffin the team’s MVP in an interview with Associated Press reporters in comments that were passed along by ESPN.com: “Blake's dominance is something that we need. He's been our MVP all season long. I keep telling him: 'I don't want to stop that. I don't want to hinder that. I just want to be a part of it.'”
While Griffin may be the Clippers' MVP right now, the honors in the All-Star Game went to Irving.
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