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Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul lead West to All-Star game victory

West 143, East 138 (final)

Who says there’s no defense in All-Star games?

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In the play that sealed the West’s 143-138 victory over the East on Sunday at Toyota Center in Houston, Kobe Bryant blocked LeBron James’ jump shot late in the fourth quarter, leading to a breakaway one-handed dunk for Kevin Durant.

As if to prove it wasn’t a fluke, Bryant blocked another shot by James, part of his all-around excellence on a night the Lakers guard finished with nine points, eight assists, four rebounds and the two blocks.

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Chris Paul was even more spectacular for the West, finishing with 20 points, 15 assists and four steals on the way to being selected the game’s most valuable player.

Paul edged out teammate Durant, who scored 30 points to become the first player in All-Star history to score at least that many points in three consecutive games.

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Carmelo Anthony had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the East.

Blake Griffin had 19 points for the West and Dwight Howard had nine points and seven rebounds in only 14 minutes, resting for most of the second half because of the torn labrum in his shoulder.

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West 108, East 104 (end of third quarter)

Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard are here, so of course there’s going to be drama.

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Howard made a three-pointer early in the third quarter of the NBA All-Star game at Toyota Center and was quickly removed by West Coach Gregg Popovich.

Howard punctuated the move by holstering his hands in a move made famous by West teammate Russell Westrbrook. Howard pointed at Westbrook on the bench as he ran back on defense, but Howard wouldn’t remain in the game for long.

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Popovich removed him at the next dead ball and Howard did not return before the end of the quarter.

West forward Kevin Durant continues to lead all scorers with 24 points. Chris Paul has 11 points and 13 assists for the West and Bryant has seven points and eight assists after taking only seven shots.

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Dwyane Wade leads the East with 21 points.

Howard has nine points on four-of-six shooting.

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West 69, East 65 (halftime)

It was liftoff for Lob City here in Houston when Chris Paul threw his first alley-oop pass to Blake Griffin midway through the second quarter of theNBA All-Star game.

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Not to be outdone, Kobe Bryant took a pass from Paul later in the quarter and threw a touch alley-oop pass to Griffin for another dunk.

Paul and Bryant have been in full facilitator mode, with Paul collecting nine assists and Bryant amassing seven to help the West take a 69-65 halftime lead. Bryant has five points and has taken only five shots.

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Kevin Durant has 19 points on a robust eight-for-12 shooting, putting him on pace for a possible second consecutive most valuable player award.

Dwyane Wade has 12 points and LeBron James and Carmleo Anthony 10 apiece for the East.

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Dwight Howard finally scored, though they were pretty much freebies on a pair of uncontested dunks. Howard has four points.

Griffin has 12 points on an impressive array of dunks, making six of seven shots.

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West 31, East 26 (end of first quarter)

There were reminders of the greatness that is the Chris Paul-Blake Griffin combination and the greatness that might have been had Paul become a Laker during the early going of the All-Star game.

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Paul fed his Clippers teammate for dunks on two of the West’s first three possessions as the West took a five-point lead over the East after the first quarter at the Toyota Center.

Paul also came up with a steal and fed Lakers guard Kobe Bryant for a layup. The duo could have been teammates had NBA Commissioner David Stern never uttered the phrase “basketball reasons” in voiding a proposed Paul-to-the-Lakers trade.

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Thunder forward Kevin Durant has seven points and Oklahoma City teammate Russell Westbrook six to lead the West. Westbrook took an alley-oop feed from former Thunder teammate James Harden, now with the Rockets, for a one-handed dunk late in the quarter.

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have seven points apiece for the East. James took a pass off the backboard from Miami teammate Dwyane Wade for a dunk early in the quarter.

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Paul has three points and four assists while Griffin has four points. The Lakers’ Dwight Howard was scoreless, missing his only shot on a jump hook over Boston’s Kevin Garnett.

Pregame

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Kobe Bryant will look to add to his legacy while Dwight Howard will hope to merely keep his shoulder intact during the NBA’s All-Star Game, which is about to tip off at Toyota Center here in Houston.

Bryant is already the all-time leading All-Star game scorer with 271 points in 14 previous appearances.

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Howard wants to merely make it through his seventh appearance without aggravating the torn labrum in his shoulder. He said he doesn’t fear worsening his injury because players don’t typically intentionally foul anyone in All-Star games.

Heck, they barely play defense at all.

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But Bryant probably shouldn’t remind his teammate that he sustained a broken nose in last year’s game after being hit by Miami’s Dwyane Wade.

Other story lines to watch include Boston’s Kevin Garnett and New York’s Carmelo Anthony as teammates only a month removed from a brouhaha in which Garnett infuriated Anthony by allegedly making salacious comments about his wife.

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There’s also Miami’s LeBron James, who is coming off a recent stretch of dominance unparalleled in NBA history in which he scored at least 30 points and made more than 60% of his shots in six consecutive games.

And it’s always fun to see Lakers and Clipipers working together.

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Bryant and Howard will be joined in the West starting lineup by Clippers stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant will try to win a second consecutive most valuable player award in the game after scoring 36 points last year in the West’s 152-149 victory.

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