February 19, 2013

Paul, Durant key to West’s NBA All-Star win

HOUSTON – LeBron James had the ball in his hands and a comeback on his mind. Kobe Bryant blocked those plans — twice.{{more}}

He may not leap like Blake Griffin, but Bryant can still get up when he needs to, especially when the defenseless part of the All-Star game is over and it’s time to stop somebody — even the league’s best player.

Bryant blocked James’ jumper, turning it into a dunk by Kevin Durant that helped the Western Conference put away the East 143-138 on Sunday.

On Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday, the players most often compared to him turned the final minutes into a one-on-one duel, and it went to Bryant — the guy Jordan said he’d pick between the two.

“It was a great block,” Durant said. “I haven’t really seen any MVP get a jumper blocked like that. It was a really great play.”

Chris Paul had 20 points, 15 assists and won MVP honours, and Durant scored 30 points. Griffin finished with 19, joining his Clippers teammate, Paul, in creating Lob City deep in the heart of Texas.

“You just want to play fast. I like to throw the lob. I like to see guys hit threes,” Paul said. “When we’re out on the court with all that firepower, why wouldn’t you want to make passes? You’ve got KD filling one of the lanes, you’ve got Blake, Kobe on the wing. There’s nothing like it.”

Bryant added a second late block of James, the MVP of the 2006 game here after leading a big East comeback. This time, he scored 19 points, but shot only seven of 18 after making 60 per cent of his shots in six straight games before the break.

“I’m known for my defense. I can defend. I’m pretty smart with my defense,” said Bryant, who got the nod from Jordan over James, based on his five championship rings. That’s one less than MJ and four more than King James.