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Westbrook scores 41, leads West to All-Star win

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Updated 10 months ago on
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NEW YORK — A year ago, Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook was recovering from a third knee surgery in six months.

On Sunday, he placed himself in the conversation with immortals Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan thanks to a brilliant All-Star Game showing.

Westbrook came within one point of Chamberlain’s 1962 record by putting together a virtuoso 41-point performance, leading the Western Conference to a 163-158 victory over the Eastern Conference in the NBA All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden.

Westbrook turned in the third 40-point performance in All-Star game history and was selected the game’s MVP, doing it nearly 14 months after having his third operation. He underwent surgery in April 2013 after colliding with Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley, had another procedure in October 2013 and the third one in late December 2013, resulting in him sitting out 36 games.

He also missed 14 games early in the 2014-15 season due to a broken bone in his right hand.

“Definitely a blessing,” Westbrook said of his All-Star outing. “You never want to take (any) games off, especially an All-Star Game to go out and show your talents. I’m blessed to be able to play the game I love and definitely happy we got the win.”

Chamberlain, then of the Philadelphia Warriors, had the first 40-point effort in an All-Star Game while playing 37 minutes, but he was not even named the MVP in 1962 as the East lost by 20. In 1988, Jordan had the second 40-point performance in front of his hometown fans in Chicago Stadium, when he did it in 29 minutes and won the MVP award.

Westbrook barely needed half the game to nearly match Chamberlain. In 25:33, Westbrook hit 16 of 28 shots, including five of nine 3-pointers, while scoring in a variety of ways, though setting the record was not necessarily a priority in a close game.

“Somebody told me, but at that time we were just trying to find a way to win the game and find a way to close the game out,” Westbrook said. “But I missed about six or seven layups. I could definitely have tied it.”

Golden State guard Stephen Curry said, “Certain guys started asking questions trying to figure out what the number was. But more of the talk was we wanted to win the game really bad.”

Westbrook did set the record for most points in a half, scoring 27 before halftime. He eclipsed the mark set by Glen Rice in 1997 and matched by Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving in last season’s game in New Orleans. He added six more points during the third quarter, all on dunks.

Westbrook sank a 3-pointer that gave the West a 158-151 edge with 2:22 remaining, and he finished off his night with two high-arcing foul shots with 1.3 seconds remaining. On the second foul shot, Westbrook tried to miss intentionally, but that was about the only thing that didn’t work out for the speedy guard.

“That’s unbelievable,” Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James said of Westbrook’s performance. “He’s an incredible talent in our league. His motor, his demeanor, how he approaches the game — he showcased it today.”

Added Curry: “It was a spectacular show of athleticism, and he kind of got hot in the second quarter. He showed a lot. Anytime you can score 40 points in an All-Star Game — that’s pretty cool.”

Westbrook was one of 16 players to reach double figures in a game that set the record for most combined points (321) and featured a combined 233 shots, including dunks by veteran forwards Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs and Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks.

James attacked the rim early and finished with 30 points to pace the East team.

Houston Rockets guard James Harden, Westbrook’s former teammate, added 29 for the West, including the go-ahead, step-back 3-pointer from the left wing that gave the West a 151-148 edge with 4:02 remaining.

For the West, Portland Trail Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge contributed 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting. For the East, Atlanta Hawks forward Kyle Korver added 21 points, all on 3-pointers.

New York Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony received a nice hand from the crowd before the game. In possibly his last game of the season, he totaled 14 points on 6-of-20 shooting. Anthony might soon undergo knee surgery but after the game spent most of his press conference discussing the reported buyout of teammate Amar’e Stoudemire’s contract.

“I haven’t made a decision yet,” Anthony said regarding a knee operation. “I haven’t even thought about it. I want to get through tonight and have a clear mind.”

The first quarter featured nine dunks and 13 3-pointers as the West took a 47-36 lead. The East held an 18-16 edge after James knocked down consecutive 3-pointers.

The West scored the next 12 points on two 3-pointers by Aldridge and 3-pointers by Curry and Harden. Korver knocked down three straight 3-pointers to get the East to within 39-32, but Westbrook scored six points in the final 91 seconds, including a two-handed dunk at the buzzer.

Westbrook continued his show by scoring 11 of the West’s first 13 points of the second quarter. He had three straight 3-pointers and another thunderous dunk, and the West opened a 60-42 lead.

Westbrook’s layup after five straight offensive rebounds by the West extended the lead to 67-49 and set the record for points in a half.

The East cut the deficit to 83-82 at halftime after Irving sank a 3-pointer with 25 seconds left.

NOTES: Sunday marked the fifth time that New York hosted the All-Star Game. It also hosted the game in 1954, 1955, 1968 and 1998. … Toronto G Kyle Lowry and Washington G John Wall were first-time starters. It was the first time that the East’s starting backcourt consisted of first-time starters since Allen Iverson (Philadelphia) and Eddie Jones (Charlotte) got the nod in 2000. … The Warriors had two starters in the game for the first time since 1967, when Rick Barry and Nate Thurmond combined for 54 points in the Cow Palace near San Francisco. … Miami F Chris Bosh is the third player in NBA history to be a five-time All Star with two different teams. The others are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (Milwaukee and Los Angeles Lakers) and Kevin Garnett (Minnesota and Boston). … Former Knicks play-by-play broadcaster Marv Albert called his 20th All-Star Game.

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