HOUSTON -- Chris Paul, one of the smallest players on the court, came up big Sunday night at the Toyota Center to lead the West to a 143-138 victory over the East in the NBA's annual All-Star Game.
Paul scored 20 points, distributed 15 assists, produced four steals and won MVP honors in the West's third straight win in the world's largest playground game.
"All those great players I had an opportunity to play with -- it's an honor and a privilege," Paul said. "I've got the easy part. All I've got to do is get them the ball."
And Paul certainly got the ball to his teammates in a timely and meaningful fashion. At times, it looked like he was toying with the East, daring it to come and guard him.
East center Joakim Noah took the bait and found himself on the 6-foot Paul about 23 feet from the basket. All Paul did was drain a 3-pointer to put the West ahead 139-128 with 1:57 left.
All of that was wrapped around a pair of sequences when Kobe Bryant twice blocked jumpers by LeBron James. After Bryant's second block, Blake Griffin tossed the ball off the backboard and slammed down a thunderous dunk to give the West a 142-134 lead with 48 seconds remaining.
The first half had an Oklahoma flavor to it with the Thunder's Kevin Durant pouring in 19 of his 30 points on 8 of 12 shots, while former University of Oklahoma star Blake Griffin dazzled the crowd with 12 points.
Griffin, who plays for the Los Angeles Clippers, was 6 of 7 from the field in the first half, and all six of his baskets came via dunks. Griffin opened the game with back-to-back dunks and kept on hammering the basket all night long with a series of rim-rattling dunks.
The West collected 25 of its assists in the first half with Paul picking up nine of them. Early on, Paul drilled a 3-pointer and then hustled downcourt to steal a pass before he laid off a bounce pass to Bryant, who scored.
But as quickly as the fans were clapping for Paul's theatrics, Dwyane Wade engineered a bounce pass off the glass which James, who had 19 points, snagged in mid-flight and dunked.
Not to be outdone, Carmelo Anthony, who scored 26 points, executed his own alley-oop dunk, which James grabbed and took to the house.
A short time later, Bryant picked up a steal and fed Durant for a fast-break dunk. That was followed by an uncontested fast break dunk from James.
Then, for old times' sake, Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was the recipient of an alley-oop dunk from Houston Rockets guard James Harden, who was his teammate the previous three seasons in Oklahoma City.
For the East, Indiana's Paul George connected on back-to-back baskets then negotiated a pass that led to a fast break dunk from Jrue Holiday. Paul followed that up with another alley-oop dunk to Griffin and a behind-the-back pass to Durant, who finished it off with another high-flying dunk.
Miami's Chris Bosh, who shot two airballs in the first quarter, heard a smattering of boos from the fans when he interrupted a possible classic moment. Paul and Griffin had a two-on-one break with only Bosh in the way of something spectacular.
Instead of letting Paul and Griffin have one of their Lob City moments, Bosh blocked out Griffin and allowed Paul an easy foray to the basket for a layup. Dwain Price, 817-390-7760