Mixing Broadway and basketball, this NBA All-Star Game started out glitzy – with Christina Aguilera appearing from behind a giant big apple and dancing with the Rockettes – and it ended up a West Side Story.
Russell Westbrook scored 41 points, one shy of the All-Star record, and the Western Conference beat the East 163-158 on Sunday night in the highest-scoring All-Star Game ever.
The Oklahoma City speedster had a record 27 points by halftime and closed out the scoring with two free throws, falling one point shy of Wilt Chamberlain's 42 points in the 1962 game. Westbrook was voted the game's MVP at Madison Square Garden.
The NBA's return to New York showed off everything about the Big Apple, and by the time Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York" played after the game, it was clear Westbrook was king of the hill.
"It's amazing. It's a blessing to be here in New York City," Westbrook said during the MVP ceremony.
The combined 321 points surpassed the 318 scored last season, and the 48 3-pointers smashed last year's record of 30.
LeBron James finished with 30 points, but couldn't lead the East to the victory in his favorite NBA arena.
"Don't get no better, man. You play in the Garden in front of these fans," James said.
James Harden's 3-pointer snapped the final tie with 4:02 to play and Chris Paul followed with consecutive baskets. Westbrook's fifth 3-pointer put it away at 158-149 with 2:22 to go.
"We just talk about having fun all game long and then at a certain point in the fourth quarter it's time to win," Paul said.
But right from the start, the players were sharing the stage.
Aguilera, making her first major performance since giving birth to her daughter, Summer Rain, kicked off the show with a New York-themed performance, singing classics including Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York," Stevie Wonder's "Livin' In the City" and Jay Z's "Empire State of Mind."
The Rockettes backed Aguilera, who was dressed all in black and danced with a cane as a prop. Rapper Nas, who is from Queens, came out to perform his own New York anthem, "N.Y. State of Mind."
Entertainment's elite were all over the arena, with players hobnobbing with Jay-Z and Floyd Mayweather near their courtside seats at halftime. But the biggest roar came for a star from another sport – politics.
President Bill Clinton, who had a big night of his own at Madison Square Garden when he was nominated here during the 1992 Democratic National Convention, got a pair of loud ovations when he was shown during Queen Latifah's performance of the national anthem.
Players were quizzed during comedic skits on New York talk and terms, and fuhgeddaboudit, Pau Gasol – who was born and raised in Barcelona, Spain – had no idea what a stoop was.
Pau won the jump ball against little brother Marc to begin the first All-Star Game featuring two sibling starters, but it would be the East's only win of the night.
The West shot out to a 20-point lead, but the East chipped away and cut it to 83-82 before halftime.
It was New York's first time hosting the weekend since 1998.
The hometown Knicks' star, Carmelo Anthony, struggled to 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting for the East in what may have been his final game of the season. The forward has been battling a sore knee for much of the season and may opt for surgery with the team owning the NBA's worst record.
But even the Knicks' misery couldn't dampen the spirts for this basketball-rich city. Players on the floor were surrounded by some of New York's hoops royalty, such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Julius Erving. There was even time to celebrate the Knicks: Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Phil Jackson, Earl Monroe and Bernard King were honored during a break in the action.
Tim Duncan had one basket in his 15th All-Star Game, second only to Abdul-Jabbar's 18. Duncan's first was here in 1998, as was Kobe Bryant's.
Bryant had to sit out along with Anthony Davis and Blake Griffin, leaving the West without three elected starters. But they had more than enough talent left, not surprising in another season where the West is the more powerful conference from top to bottom.
East coach Mike Budenholzer played his four Atlanta Hawks together in the first quarter, Al Horford joining Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Korver.
"I thought we would all be out there together quite a bit. We were kind of hand signaling to run a few plays, but you weren't really running plays," Korver said. "It was just up and down. But it was great for the Hawks and for the city of Atlanta. It was really cool."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.
Like us on Facebook