NEW YORK – Under the bright lights of Broadway, the NBA’s finest performed at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, with the Western Conference All-Stars prevailing over the East All-Stars, 163-158.
The game broke the previous record for most points (319), with the West shooting 48.9 percent the field, and the East shooting 50 percent. The West poured in 47 points in the first quarter.
It was also a particularly hot-shooting game for point guard Russell Westbrook, who took home the MVP Award for the West. The 26-year-old was sidelined early in the season with a hand injury, but showed no signs of any ill effects with a 41-point, five-rebound performance. Westbrook hit 16 shots on 28 attempts.
Westbrook came within one point of Wilt Chamberlain’s record of 42 points. Westbrook warmly said he could have broken the record had he not missed about six or seven lay-ups.
“You never want to take games off, especially an All-Star Game,” Westbrook said in the postgame press conference. "I'm blessed to be able to play the game I love and definitely happy we got the win."
It was a sensational game from the start for the Oklahoma City Thunder star. Westbrook had 27 points in 11 minutes and 21 seconds, converting 11 of his 15 first-half shot attempts. With 6:25 remaining in the first half, Westbrook had shattered the All-Star record for points in a half. He also dazzled the Manhattan crowd with some high-flying dunks and layups.
In the third quarter, Chris Paul would toss an alley-oop to Westbrook, and the athletic star would oblige with a soaring dunk to put the West up 114-112. Moments later, he would leap through the lane with another impressive dunk.
While All-Star games are often lacking in defense, there were multiple examples of players preventing the game from being solely a dunk exhibition. In the first quarter, Pau Gasol swooped in to emphatically reject an outside shot from Klay Thompson. In the second quarter, Pau’s brother Marc Gasol fouled LeBron James on an outside shot, sending the superstar forward to the deck. Both rosters combined for 21 steals after 24 minutes, and by the final buzzer the teams had 32 total steals.
But there was still plenty of offense. Stephen Curry, a favorite to win the 2014-2015 regular-season MVP, provided some of the game's most entertaining shots and passes. In the third quarter, the Golden State Warriors point guard dropped jaws with a soaring layup. He also gave a smooth behind-the-back pass to James Harden in the first quarter.
Curry described Westbrook's performance as a "spectacular show of athleticism."
"He showed a lot," Curry added. "Any time you can score 40 points in an All-Star Game, that's pretty cool."
As usual, James also put on a show. The two-time All-Star Game MVP finished with 30 points as the East's leading scorer. In the opening moments of the game, James scored the game’s first four points with a layup and dunk.
The West has now won the annual contest four of the last five years. Next year's game will take place in Toronto.