NEW YORK — Russell Westbrook began the 2015 All-Star game by setting a new record for the most points scored in a half, and he nearly finished it by tying the single game scoring record, before ultimately finishing one point shy.
His 41 points were enough, however, to lead the West to a 163-158 victory, which allowed Westbrook to take home the game’s MVP honors.
“Definitely a blessing, man,” Westbrook said afterward. “You never want to take no games off, especially an All‑Star game to get a chance to go out and show your talents. I’m blessed to be able to play the game that I love and definitely happy we got the win.”
LeBron James appeared to be in the hunt for the MVP early on, scoring 15 points on just nine shots in the game’s first eight-and-a-half minutes. But with the East trailing by as many as 20 points in the first half, it would be difficult for him to win it if his team lost the game in blowout fashion.
It became a one-point game by halftime, though, and remained close the rest of the way — meaning the MVP race remained tight, as well.
That may have been the reason that Westbrook was denied the chance to gun for the scoring record of 42 points, which was set by Wilt Chamberlain back in 1962. His teammates seemed unaware that he was so close, with possessions getting drawn out until the shot clock wound down, and with little emphasis being placed on getting the ball to Westbrook in the game’s closing minutes. And more than one of them confirmed it afterwards.
“We had no idea,” James Harden said. “We were trying to go out there and win the game. It’s all about bragging rights for the West, and so we just go out there and play hard enough in the fourth quarter and come out with the victory.”
“I don’t think we talked about it with him personally,” said Stephen Curry. “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, and however we get it done, we wanted to do that.”
“No, we didn’t know,” said Steve Kerr, who coached the Western Conference squad. “The plan was just to go into the fourth quarter having played everybody. We knew that Tim and Dirk were just going to play a handful of minutes. Same with Kevin, based on a nagging injury. And we just figured whoever was hot in the fourth quarter we would go to. And obviously Russell had it going, so we went back to him after a brief rest. We just knew he was hot; we didn’t know of any records.”
Westbrook, however, said he did find out about it in the game’s final minute. But he was with his teammates in keeping the focus on the win instead.
“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 definitely could have had it.”
What he ended up with instead was the game’s best overall performance — and one that drew the praise of the man that is recognized by most as the league’s best player.
“I think Westbrook came for it from the start,” LeBron James said. ‘He’s unbelievable. He’s an unbelievable talent in our league. His motor, his athleticism, his demeanor about how he approaches the game, it’s all great. And it’s great for our league. He showed that tonight, and showcased it on a big stage.”