The Eastern Conference All-Stars staged a big second half comeback to down the Western Conference All-Stars in what ended up the highest scoring game in All-Star history. The East held the lead through much of the first quarter, but the West took hold of the game in the second quarter, pushing a 13-point halftime advantage to 18 in the third.
As if on cue to Frank Vogel's wish that his Eastern Conference defense "make some kind of play against them" on defense, the East ran off a 14-0 run to cut the lead to two, anchored by none other than Roy Hibbert leading the All-Star version of Indiana Pacers defense into the fourth quarter. The West were able to keep the East at bay for much of the fourth quarter, but a James Harden foul on Paul George sent George to the line for three attempts that put the East up for good, as they closed out the absurd 163-155 final.
It was an All-Star contest heavy on the theatrics, with Pharrell, Nelly, Snoop Dogg, N*E*R*D, Dr. John, Janelle Monáe, Gary Clark, Jr., and others serving as the musical backdrop to a festival of alley oops and three pointers from the headlining act of the All-Star Game, once it tipped off anyway. Kyrie Irving would walk away the game's MVP, wrapping up a 31 point, 14 assist double double on 14-17 shooting.
He was one of four MVP candidates that included Blake Griffin, Carmelo Anthony, and Kevin Durant, but Irving was a key part of the East's come from behind victory in the fourth quarter. Griffin and Durant each scored 38 for the West, just four points shy of the All-Star Game record set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. Griffin did most of his work on dunks, with 12 dunks leading to a record 19 field goals. Durant did his work with six three pointers, scoring 10 rebounds for a double double.
Anthony was on fire from three point range with eight of his 10 field goals coming from beyond the arc, scoring 30. LeBron James had 22 points on 11-22 shooting, but went 0-7 from three point range with seven rebounds on the night. John Wall was a big part of the East's comeback, scoring 12 points off the bench. Stephen Curry pulled out a 12 point, 11 assist double double.
The Pacers certainly represented themselves well in the game, with everyone playing their own role in the win. Paul George had 18 points for the East All-Stars on 10-18 shooting, with his five free throws on the night (a game high), helping to put the East on top in the final two minutes before icing it in the final seconds of the game. George had some nice plays, some good dunks, playing well all around with five rebounds, five assists, and two steals.
Maybe the win can in a way be attributed to Vogel, whose preaching of defense may have led to the Eastern Conference's victory in the second half. That may be wishful thinking, but the step up of play to either force tougher shots or limit offensive rebounds to the West (the East allowed just three offensive rebounds in the second half after 16 in the first half) turned the game around when he began to preach the necessity for stops in order to climb back in the game.
Hibbert was wildly efficient in his play, going 4-5 for eight points, his only missing coming from a corner three pointer. He played just 12 minutes, all in the first and third quarters, but his play late in the third quarter, including four of his five rebounds, certainly played a part in helping the East back in the game and towards the win in the final period.
As a game, it was as fun as All-Star Games typically are; plenty of dunks, gaudy numbers, no defense and then a few minutes of trying. The numbers were outrageous in some cases. The two teams attempted a combined 100 three point attempts, racked up 88 assists, 101 rebounds, 162 points in the paint, but couldn't find room for a single block in the game.
All in all, All-Star Weekend proved to be a success for the Pacers. Nate McMillan lead his team to victory in the Rising Stars Challenge, Paul George won the Dunk Contest (right?), and they came out victorious in the All-Star Game. Hopefully all of this winning can send them back to the teams' final 30 games with a refreshed sense of urgency as they will run down the Eastern Conference's top spot as the playoffs draw closer and closer.