Kyrie Irving wins MVP as East beats West in record-setting All-Star Game
NEW ORLEANS -- Kyrie Irving took home MVP honors after leading the East to a come-from-behind 163-155 victory during a record-setting NBA All-Star Game at the Smoothie King Center on Sunday. The East's victory snapped the West's three-game winning streak.
The Cavaliers' third-year point guard tallied a team-high 31 points and a game-high 14 assists to help the East make up an 18-point second-half deficit. Irving, 21, scored 24 points in the second half and 15 in the fourth quarter in his second career All-Star appearance and his first career All-Star start.
"There's so many MVPs out there on that floor and to be named MVP among all those great stars is truly an honor," Irving said. "It's a blessing. I'm glad I get to bring it back to Cleveland."
Irving, the 2011 No. 1 overall pick, becomes the second-youngest All-Star Game MVP in history, joining Heat forward LeBron James as the only players to win the award at age 21. This is the second straight year that Irving will depart All-Star Weekend after making his mark. Last year in Houston, Irving won the Three-Point Contest, scored 32 points in the Rising Stars Challenge and tallied 15 points as the youngest All-Star competitor. This year, he finished a series of nifty drives in the second-half scoring burst.
"Kyrie is special, it's just that simple," James said. "His ability to shoot the ball, get into the lane, make shots around the rim, he has the total package. I've always known that. I've always witnessed that since he was in high school. I'm extremely happy for him, extremely proud for him to receive this award."
Heat guard Dwyane Wade, who started alongside Irving in the East's backcourt, added: "Forget a Dunk Contest, do a layup contest and he’ll win it. He’s got so much pizazz."
A record-setting offensive performance by both conferences headlined Sunday's showcase. Together, the teams combined for an All-Star Game record of 318 points, shattering the previous mark of 303 points, set in an overtime game in 1987. The teams also set a new All-Star Game record by scoring 165 combined points in a half, eclipsing the 157 points scored in 1988 and 2012. Before their second-half collapse, the West's first-half total of 89 points set a record for most points in a half by a conference during the All-Star Game, breaking its own total of 88 points in 2012.
Irving -- whose 24 second-half points tied the All-Star Game record for most points in a half, set by Glen Rice in 1997 -- was one of four players to top 30 points on the night; Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony (3o), Thunder forward Kevin Durant (38) and Clippers forward Blake Griffin (38) all topped that threshold. Both Durant and Griffin threatened the All-Star Game's all-time scoring record of 42 points, set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962, before ultimately falling just short.
Anthony set a new All-Star Game record with eight three-pointers, surpassing the previous record of six set by Mark Price in 1993. He finished with 30 points (on 10-for-18 shooting and 8-for-13 from deep), five rebounds and two assists.
"One of the ball boys was telling me [about the record]," Anthony said. "It was a great feeling. Obviously my teammates knew that, they kept finding me so all I had to do was just space the court and make the shot. They made it easy for me."
Griffin set multiple All-Star Game records in a dunk-filled performance that saw him tally 38 points (on 19-for-23 shooting) and six rebounds. His nine first-quarter field goals, 10 first-half field goals tied the record for most baskets made in a half, set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1962. His 19 field goals made set a new record, eclipsing the 17 made by Chamberlain (1962), Michael Jordan (1988) and Kevin Garnett (2003). His nine first-quarter field goals also set a new record, while his 10 first-half field goals tied Chamberlain's record-setting mark.
Sixteen of Griffin's field goals came in the basket area, including numerous slams, many of which were set up by his Clippers teammate Chris Paul, who finished with 11 points (on 4-for-9 shooting) and a team-high 13 assists.
"This game is for the fans," Griffin said, when asked about his aerial act. "They don't really want to see me shooting jump shots, so it's cool to be able to get up and down and have fun with it."
"Blake was unreal," Paul added. "I thought Blake had a shot at getting 50 tonight. ... If we win that game right there, I think Blake is MVP."
Durant finished with 38 points (on 14-for-27 shooting and 6-for-17 from deep) while adding 10 rebounds and six assists, marking the fourth straight All-Star Game that he has scored 30 or more points. His 17 three-point attempts shattered the previous record, which was set by Ray Allen in 2005 and which Durant matched in 2011.
Afterwards, the 25-year-old Durant, who is the current favorite to take home regular season MVP honors, reflected on the league's youth movement.
"How old is [Irving]? 21 years old? Winning the MVP?" Durant asked rhetorically, before listing off 10 of the younger All-Stars who competed in New Orleans. "[These young guys] are showing the [other] younger guys that's coming into this league ... that anything is possible, man, and that you don't have to wait six or seven years to become an All-Star."
James began the game with multiple highlight reel dunks and finished with 22 points (on 11-for-22 shooting and 0-for-7 from deep), seven rebounds and seven assists.Magic Johnson led the crowd and players from both teams in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" to honor 11-time champion Bill Russell's 80th birthday.