10:07 After three missed jumpers for the West, Bryant hit the first bucket for his squad on a baseline fadeaway.
8:51 Wait, are we back in 1997? Bryant pulled out one of his old dunk contest moves
6:31 Almost as fun for the crowd at STAPLES as Kobe’s swished three moments earlier was an air-balled three-pointer from Ray Allen, who along with fellow Celtics Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Rajon Rondo got plenty of boos in pregame intros.
5:38 Bryant had worked up quite a sweat already after seven and a half minutes, posting nine points on 3-of-5 field goals, an assist on Gasol’s first bucket moments after the Spaniard entered for Tim Duncan, two rebounds and two steals. Prior to the game, I figured that if Bryant got going early, he may very well go after his fourth career All-Star MVP award, and that’s what looked to be happening. We’ll keep you posted. By the way … Bob Pettit is the only player in NBA history to win four All-Star MVP awards, with Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Shaq and Kobe next with three apiece.
4:13 Gasol’s second dunk came this time from Deron Williams, after Blake Griffin replaced the only starter left on the court, Bryant. East Coach Doc Rivers, meanwhile, had all four of his Celtics on the floor … we’d have to see whether that helped out the East’s defense, facing a 10-point hole (not that 10 points in an All-Star game is in any way daunting).
11:34 Gasol was subbed out for (Kevin Love) after making all three of his shots for six points, plus a board. Nice and easy stuff inside from the Spaniard, who didn’t have to break much of a sweat.
6:46 Bryant returned to the action with the West lead cut to six at 49-43, LeBron James probably leading his East squad in the MVP race with a balanced effort of six points, four dimes and three boards. We should take away a few points from LBJ, however, for randomly jumping on the scorer’s table for the second time.
4:39 Gasol added and assist to his four field goals by finding Kevin Durant for a corner three, allowing the West to re-open a 13-point lead at 58-45. Moments later, Gasol finished off his sixth field goal in as many attempts after some beautiful passing between he and Ginobili, both of whom have their doctorates in basketball.
1:14 Bryant may as well have brought out his No. 8 jersey, rising again this time for a reverse slam to get him to a game-high 17 points. Consider his MVP candidacy in full effect, particularly with the West leading 70-58. He added two more buckets before the half ended, reaching 21 points, good enough to pass Elgin Baylor (218), Julius Erving (221) and Pettit (224) for fourth on the all-time All-Star scoring list. Up next? The Big O, who had 246, Kareem (251) and Jordan (262).
6:17 So back came Kobe, first with a transition dunk ahead of going-for-chase-down-block-but-failing LeBron, then a triple to reach 30 points. He’d add another bucket with a stop-and-go move to the hoop, then watch Deron Williams stick a three-pointer to put the West back up by double digits at 95-83.
5:00 One more dunk from Kobe, this time a fierce one-hander, made it a 100-86 lead for the West, and got him nine points away from passing Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time record of 42, established in 1962.
0:00 Gasol got back in the scoring column with a hook shot and 1-of-2 free throws, reaching 15 points and five rebounds, the most he’d scored in an All-Star game with a quarter yet to play. After a slow start, the West rallied to outscore the East 41-36 in the period, building their lead to 117-100. Bryant was still in the driver’s seat for MVP honors.
9:50 We won’t call it a turning point, but Rondo missed a chance to cut the West’s lead down to nine by clanging a wide-open layup, and Durant went for five straight at the other end to restore the lead to 14. Meanwhile, Bryant and Gasol both rested on the bench.
8:03 LeBron was trying to keep his MVP candidacy alive by nearing a triple-double with 20 points, nine boards and eight assists, leading all players in minutes with 24:16 to that point. Kobe was at 21:23, but would surely return for crunch time and a chance to catch Wilt’s scoring mark…
6:23… And he’s get three points closer upon returning, hitting 1-of-2 free throws, then grabbing the miss of the second to hit a free-throw line jumper that put the West up 132-118. Gasol was also in for the crunch time minutes, playing center, even if that didn’t stop him from taking (and missing) a corner three.
2:57 The East had, suddenly, come back in a big way to cut the West’s lead to just two points after two free throws from James, reaching his triple-double with 25 points, 12 boards and 10 assists. Bryant hadn’t been able to get going at the other end, the West turning the ball over and the East leaking out in transition to turn the tables, their run getting to 17-3 to set up an exciting final three minutes.
1:44 Durant responded with back-to-back jumpers, the second a three off Bryant’s assist (and Gasol’s block of Rose at the other end) to put the West back up 142-135. The teams then alternated runs yet again, the East pulling to within two before a big put-back from Gasol on Bryant’s miss made it a four-point game with 53 seconds to play.
0:00 That’d be enough, the West winning by a final margin of 148-143. It would indeed by Bryant winning his fourth All-Star MVP nod, tying Pettit’s record, behind his 37 points and 14 rebounds.