HOUSTON -- Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul played his part, serving others so splendidly that he was a viable MVP candidate in the NBA All-Star Game without scoring at a clip typically reserved for MVPs.
However, when scoring was required, Paul did that, too, draining a 3-pointer to spark a run that helped the Western Conference secure a 143-138 victory over the Eastern Conference on Sunday night at Toyota Center.
Paul keyed a 7-0 spurt that turned a three-point lead into a 136-126 advantage. The surge ended with a Kevin Durant breakaway dunk with 2:35 left to play. Just for good measure, Paul drained a 3-pointer with 1:57 to go with Bulls center Joakim Noah openly challenging him after a perimeter clear-out.
Paul finished with 20 points, a game-high 15 assists and four steals to earn MVP honors. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Durant became the first player in All-Star Game history with three consecutive 30-point games, finishing with 30 points on 13-for-24 shooting. He added six rebounds.
New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony paced the East with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Miami guard Dwyane Wade added 21 points and seven assists, while his Heat teammate LeBron James added 19 points and five assists.
If there were an edge for the West, it was experience. With half of the players on the East roster making All-Star Game debuts, the West managed a 69-65 halftime lead, then turned to its reserves to extend that edge to double digits after the East bench took hold in the third quarter.
All-Star Game vets Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and Russell Westbrook of the Thunder helped the West take control. Even Houston Rockets guard James Harden, the lone All-Star Game rookie on the West, got into the act, sandwiching 3-pointers around a Westbrook transition basket to build the lead to 104-98 with 1:53 left in the third quarter.
Harden buried another 3-pointer early in the fourth as the West extended to a 119-109 lead. But the inexperienced East bench, sparked by guards Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers and Jrue Holiday of the Philadelphia 76ers, clawed back and set the stage for the starters to handle the business of closing the game with a serious tone.
To little surprise, All-Stars renowned for facilitating filled that role to perfection in the opening half, particularly Paul, whose ball skills put teammates like Clippers forward Blake Griffin in position to finish rim assaults with vicious dunks.
Paul accounted for nine first-half assists, with seemingly all of them resulting in an alley-oop finish. Paul took some liberties with his ball-handling, yet no one seemed to mind given the resulting entertainment value. Griffin, for example, dunked home all six of his first-half baskets.
Sharing was rampant. Wade tallied six first-half assists of his own, matching his six field goals in a splendid all-around performance. Lakers guard Kobe Bryant continued his recent and curious trend of getting teammates involved, closing the first half second only to Paul with seven assists. Bryant, whose 111 field goals coming into Sunday were the most in All-Star Game history, launched only nine shots, and he wound up with nine points and eight assists.
Such unselfishness opened the door for three-time scoring champion Durant to fire away before the break. The Thunder forward posted 19 first-half points, hitting two of the West's three 3-pointers.
In the early stages, the teams combined to shoot 6-for-29 (20.7 percent) from behind the 3-point arc.
Few seemed appalled by the inferior marksmanship, not with fast breaks yielding transition baskets in bunches. And with the league's top talent on hands, uncontested shots at or near the rim produced 88 first-half points in the paint, a whopping 65.7 percent of the combined score.
In the end, 54.8 percent of the game's points came from the paint.