PG One Point Shy of 54-Year-Old Record, But East Falls to West
The NBA All-Star Game is never short on storylines and this year’s contest was no exception.
All eyes were on Lakers legend Kobe Bryant, as he took part in his 18th and final All-Star Game on Sunday night in Toronto. There was also plenty of attention on the three All-Stars from the defending champion Golden State Warriors — on pace to put together the best regular season in league history — and the two All-Stars from the hometown Raptors.
But Pacers forward Paul George’s star shone brighter than anyone’s on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre. The Pacers’ star led all scorers with 41 points — over twice as many as any Pacers player has ever scored in a single All-Star Game and one shy from breaking a 54-year-old record — and set a new league record for 3-pointers made in the mid-season showcase.
It wasn’t quite enough to lead the East to victory, as the West pulled away in the second half for a 196-173 win, but George’s performance had everyone buzzing.
“I think to start out everyone wants a chance to win MVP in the All-Star Game,” George said. “That was definitely a goal. So much special stuff wrapped around this one.
“It would have been a special moment to win it. But really, it was really just about coming here and enjoying everyone’s — just enjoying being with these guys, man, and having a good showing.”
No one got off to a hotter start on Sunday night. Playing in his third All-Star Game, the six-year NBA veteran swished his first shot of the night, a 3-pointer. Moments later, he caught an alley-oop from Dwyane Wade.
That seemed to put PG in a rhythm reminiscent of some of his early-season performances. George knocked down three of his next four shots from beyond the arc, helping the home East squad build an early lead.
Thanks to his hot hand, George logged the longest shift of any All-Star starter in the first quarter, playing 7:58 and accumulating 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting, going 4-for-7 from 3-point range.
George checked back into the game with 3:36 remaining in the second quarter. He added a one-handed dunk to his tally in the final minute, finishing the half with 16 points and three rebounds.
In the third quarter, George set a franchise All-Star Game record and matched an NBA mark. After an early alley-oop from LeBron James got him to 18 points, George buried his fifth triple of the night with 10:29 left in the period to give him 21 points, breaking his own record for most points by a Pacers player in an NBA All-Star Game (18 in 2014 in New Orleans).
PG continued to show off his shooting stroke over the next few minutes. He hit two more threes and a floater before knocking down his eighth triple of the night with 3:33 left in the quarter, matching the NBA record for threes in an All-Star Game (Carmelo Anthony previously pulled off the feat in 2014).
East head coach Tyronn Lue said that Anthony made George aware that he was within striking distance of his record and the two stars were joking about it as George drew nearer and eventually surpassed Anthony’s mark.
“PG and John Wall, they were serious,” Lue said. “They weren’t messing around tonight. They took the game more serious than everybody else did (on the East team), and you could see the outcome with Paul.”
George added nine points to his tally in the fourth quarter, pulling within one point of Wilt Chamberlain’s 1962 record for most points in a single All-Star Game. He missed a step-back jumper over Draymond Green in the right corner in the final minute and couldn’t get another clean look, as the West locked down on him defensively.
He finished the night one point shy of the record, matching Russell Westbrook’s 41-point performance in last year’s game. George made 16-of-26 shots on the night, going 9-for-19 from 3-point range.
George’s big night was perhaps the biggest milestone since his return from breaking his right leg in August 2014, an injury that caused him to miss all but the final six games of last season.
“It’s really special,” George said of the game. “You know, I had a hard-fought summer, hard-fought rehab year. It was just a very upward climb. It took every day and really every moment of rehab to get through it.”
George’s performance drew plenty of praise from his fellow competitors.
“I’m actually amazed looking at him,” San Antonio Spurs and West team head coach Gregg Popovich said. “Every time he runs up and down the floor and jumps up for those dunks and everything, I’m thinking, wow, the human body must be amazing, it really must be amazing.
“To come back and play at that level athletically, it just stuns me every time I see him out there…It’s great that he’s back.”
by Wheat Hotchkiss