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Los Angeles • His city. His arena. His game.
Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant did not steal the show Sunday night during the 2011 NBA All-Star game. He owned it.
A smooth but exceptionally sharp Bryant recorded a game-high 37 points and 14 rebounds, guiding the Western Conference to a 148-143 victory over the Eastern Conference on Sunday night at Staples Center.
Bryant was honored as the game's most valuable player, marking the fourth time he has achieved the award and tying Bob Pettit's all-time record.
"Just being around so many young players gave me so much energy," said Bryant, who hit 14 of his 26 field goals, collected eight offensive rebounds and grabbed three steals.
Jazz guard Deron Williams recorded five points and seven assists in 18 minutes, making his second consecutive All-Star appearance and serving as Utah's lone representative.
Williams tweaked his right wrist late in the fourth quarter and left the game.
"I do it a lot of games, man," Williams said. "Like I said [Friday], until I really rest, it's going to hurt."
Williams started fairly well, though. He collected a quick rebound, then distributed an assist to the Lakers' Pau Gasol midway through the first quarter. A smooth bounce pass to Dallas' Dirk Nowitzki for another assist followed. As did an un-All-Star-like half-court violation which occurred when Williams cut behind the basket and threw the ball to San Antonio's Manu Ginobili on the opposite half of the court and a missed open layup.
But Williams was otherwise in strong form during his first stretch of action, recording four assists, one rebound and a steal in 6 minutes.
"These things are always fun," Williams said. "I'm glad we won this year."
An instant connection with high-flying Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin highlighted Williams' comfort. After Griffin received a long pass from Ginobili, he bounced the ball toward Williams. The Jazz point guard responded by immediately lobbing the ball skyward for Griffin, who responded with one of his trademark alley-oop slams. It was a similar look for Griffin the supremely talented rookie captured the dunk contest title Saturday but a slightly different one for Williams, who has often discussed his desire to push the tempo this season but sometimes has been forced to hold back.
Williams said Utah rookie forward Jeremy Evans is the only player he has teamed with who can jump like the fast-rising Clippers star. But Griffin who Williams' team has nicknamed "Captain Planet" inhabits a whole other universe.
"I ain't really played with anybody like that," Williams said.
He scored his first points via a swished 3-pointer off an assist by San Antonio's Tim Duncan, making it 95-83 West with 5:56 left in the third period.
An aggressive length-of-the-court drive and finish near the end of the quarter marked the peak of his offensive performance.
"It's fun to play with a whole team of athletes," Williams said. "It's so easy to get assists out there."
Meanwhile, Bryant scored nine of his team's first 19 points, propelling the West to a 37-27 lead heading into the second period.
Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant followed Bryant's path, scoring nine second-quarter points as the West's lead swelled to 64-54.
Bryant did not slow down. He poured in 21 points during the first half, adding six rebounds and three steals. Then he roared out of the break, following a dunk with a stop-and-pop 3.
The most impressive part of Bryant's game was its versatility. Alternating outside jump shots with slicing drives and stinging dunks, Bryant looked years younger than 32, easily stealing the spotlight and reminding 23 other All-Stars why the NBA title still bears his fingerprints.
"I feel like we have a sense of responsibility, and we are voted in for what we do during the season, which is play hard," Bryant said. "And we come here, and that's what the fans want to see. They want to see us go at it and see us compete, and that's what I try to do."
Storylines How the West won
R IN SHORT • The Western Conference edges the Eastern Conference 148-143 Sunday at the 2011 NBA All-Star Game in Los Angeles.
KEY STAT • Jazz guard Deron Williams finishes with five points and seven assists in 19 minutes.
KEY MOMENT • Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant scores five consecutive points to stretch the West's two-point lead to 142-135 with 1:46 to go.