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Did Russ and AD's Historic Night Destroy the NBA All-Star Game or Save It?

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistFebruary 20, 2017

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 19: Anthony Davis #23 and Russell Westbrook #0 of the Western Conference All-Stars poses for a portrait during the NBA All-Star Game as part of 2017 All-Star Weekend at the Smoothie King Center on February 19, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Jennifer Pottheiser/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jennifer Pottheiser/Getty Images

Giannis Antetokounmpo tallied 30 points, three steals and roughly one jillion highlight dunks during his first-ever NBA All-Star appearance Sunday night.

And he wasn't even one of the two best players on the floor.

Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook stole the show during the Western Conference's 192-182—yes, that's a real score—victory over the Eastern Conference. They combined for 93 points on 65 shots.

Davis, the unofficial host of this weekend's festivities in New Orleans, finished with an All-Star-record 52 points, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's 42-point mark from 1962. The basket that sealed his spot in NBA lore came off a lob, because, well, it was the All-Star Game and of course it did:

NBA History @NBAHistory

The basket that put Anthony Davis in the #NBAAllStar record books. Points 42 and 43 (breaking Wilt Chamberlain's mark of 42-1962) https://t.co/sqEnqNReGT

"When I came out in the third quarter and I had 32, I told the guys I wanted to get 50," Davis told TNT's Ernie Johnson afterward. "And Russell Westbrook had told me the record was 42, so I just started playing [and] getting lobs."

Davis' fellow Western Conference superstuds took his 50-point obsession to heart, as Bleacher Report's Howard Beck astutely observed:

Howard Beck @HowardBeck

It seems the players have restored the pseudo-tradition of setting up the hometown guy for the MVP award. Anthony Davis has 52 and 10. #mvp

Mission accomplished. Davis earned MVP honors, joining an esteemed list of All-Star VIPs to get the nod in front of the hometown crowd, per ESPN Stats & Info:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

All-Star MVP From Host Team Last 25 Years 2017 Anthony Davis 2011 Kobe Bryant 2009/2004 Shaquille O'Neal 1993 Stockton/Malone

Passing Chamberlain and perfectly repping the Pelicans wasn't even Davis' greatest accomplishment of the night. All-Star records and MVPs are forever, but this off-the-backboard smash he finished with the help of Stephen Curry (21 points, six assists) is longer than forever:

NBA on TNT @NBAonTNT

Why not? #AnthonyDavis now w/ 50+ PTS! https://t.co/LHdeBsHRRJ

Westbrook wasn't far behind Davis on the "Is this actually happening right now?" scale. He came oh-so-close to winning his third consecutive All-Star Game MVP, leaving with 41 points—one shy of Chamberlain's mark himself—and a game-high seven three-pointers.

Correct: In a contest that featured Kevin Durant (triple-double), Kyrie Irving (22 points, 14 assists), Kyle Lowry (19 points), Curry and a slew of proven long-range snipers, Westbrook exited as the most decorated three-point shooter.

Up is down sometimes.

Oh, Westbrook also buried the hatchet with Durant by touching the same ball as him:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Rekindling an old flame 🔥 #KevinDurant & #RussellWestbrook https://t.co/HEVpns56An

We could write this off as a "whatever" moment, but let's call it "irrevocable reconciliation by default" instead, because that's way more convenient. Plus, look how happy the West was after the fact:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

We are all the western conference bench 😂😂 #NBAAllStar https://t.co/cLYVWZuc5k

Despite these otherworldly outings from Davis and Westbrook—and make no mistake, they were magnificent—it’s tough to draw anything profound from how we got here.

The All-Star pageant is not saved.

It has not suddenly been re-infused with meaning and renewed interest.

It is not, in any way, different from recent years.

If anything, Davis’ and Westbrook’s outbursts only reinforced the status quo: that defense has no place in this space.

The devil was in the (demonstrative) details. Kawhi Leonard (two assists, one steal), the two-time reigning Defensive Player of the Year, looked utterly lost amid the rampant showboating. Antetokounmpo's occasional defensive stands were flagrant exceptions that drifted well beyond the accepted standard.

Curry actually laid down on defense for crying out loud:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Steph..💀 #NBAAllStar https://t.co/9jOumTdluU

Irving served as the inbounder for the West at one point:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

So we just going to act like Kyrie didn’t inbound the ball to Steph.. https://t.co/PfJmaLvomH

Look at the reaction Antetokounmpo gets from Curry for, you know, trying and stuff:

Bleacher Report @BleacherReport

Should've stayed on the ground, Steph... https://t.co/ABoKSulBEs

And then there's the final score, along with the total number of uncontested smashes, to consider:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

374 combined points are most in NBA All-Star Game history (previous record was 369, set last season)

For those now expecting us to grab the nearest megaphone and begin bellowing at clouds, you're going to be disappointed.

There is nothing to be mad about here. All-Star tilts aren't supposed to engender competition. They're no longer wired that way. 

Nothing is at stake during these mid-February exhibitions—not home-court advantage in the NBA Finals, not bragging rights, not anything. And while the league has never been more popular, legitimate rivalries are scant. 

Players like each other. So many of them grew up playing AAU ball together. They're friends. They compete when the games matter, but most don't walk off the court shouldering individual grudges—let alone ones that spill into a pickup showcase aimed at celebrating the Association's almost-universal camaraderie.

Barely anyone champions Westbrook's me-against-the-world, no-exceptions state of mind. And he still put his beef with Durant aside, even if only for a second, even if unofficially.

And that's fine. The Association doesn't need a hyper-competitive All-Star Game. The Saturday night slate can suck, as it did this year, and it still doesn't need the main event to be anything more than it is now.

NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 19:  Anthony Davis #23 of the New Orleans Pelicans celebrates with the 2017 NBA All-Star Game MVP trophy after the 2017 NBA All-Star Game at Smoothie King Center on February 19, 2017 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The sooner this is accepted without the expectation of change, the sooner All-Star Game MVPs and appearances can stopped being used to prop up and detract from legacies.

In the end, this is what Davis' and Westbrook's detonations taught us most: Stars will show up. Records will fall. MVPs will be crowned. But drama, by design, has no place in the All-Star Game—so we might as well appreciate it for the casual dunk contest it's become.

Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey and Adam Fromal.

Stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com or NBA.com.

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