NEW ORLEANS — After a star-studded and spectacular first two nights of the weekend, Sunday night’s All-Star Game ramped up the excitement and wonder to an even higher level.
The Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference on Sunday night 163-155 to create the highest scoring NBA All Star Game in history, but it was a wild affair that featured an 18-point comeback, a combined 88 assists and four players who scored 30-or-more points. One such player was Durant, who came closest to the record for an individual of 42 points in an All-Star Game by racking up a career-best 38 points. Despite the loss, Durant was thrilled that he could experience his fifth straight All-Star Game and share the experience with the Thunder coaching staff led by Scott Brooks, along with teammates Reggie Jackson and Steven Adams.
“It’s one of those feelings that never gets old,” Durant said. “It’s great to be out here. It’s a blessing to be named an All-Star by the fans and the energy was crazy tonight. I’m excited I played and its a memory I’ll have in my mind for a while.”
Durant impacted tonight’s game on all levels, just as he’s done throughout the regular season thus far, propelling the Thunder to the NBA’s best record. The NBA’s leading scorer, and the all-time leader in scoring average in the All-Star game at 30.6 points per contest, put the ball in the bucket in a variety of ways on his 14-for-27 shooting night. He made six three-pointers, got to the rim, finished some big dunks and hit a few of his signature fall-away jumpers.
On top of that, Durant handled the ball quite a bit, dished out a career-best six assists and grabbed a career-high ten rebounds. The performance was a natural continuation of the all-around game that Durant has developed throughout his time in the league.
“I never really think about it,” Durant said. “I just have to go out there and play the way that I play.”
“(Durant) is a great player,” Brooks said. “He’s a great teammate. He does all the the things that we have asked and works hard. he leads. he impacts the game both ways. He doesn’t want to just be a scorer. he wants to a play-maker and a defender, and that’s what he’s done for us all season.”
While Durant was the focal point for the Western Conference on the court, Brooks was at the helm on the sidelines. Making his second appearance as the head coach in the All Star Game, Brooks learned from his first experience and made sure to soak in the moment a bit more, not worry about the x’s and o’s and simply enjoy the unbelievable skill and execution amongst the players on the floor. After guiding the Thunder to a 43-12 mark heading into the break, Brooks was rewarded with the chance to sit back and watch the action unfold from the best seat in the house.
“You’re talking about just amazingly talented players committed to the game they loved at an early age,” Brooks said. “I marvel at all their talents. It’s really cool to see them all come together.”
“I’m fortunate,” Brooks said. “It’s a privilege to be in this league as a player and as a coach and I love the opportunity that our organization has given me.”
Tonight’s game was a wonderful breather for the NBA in the midst of its rigorous 82-game schedule and a perfect chance to give back to the fans who so loyally support the teams throughout the year. While the up-and-down style that resulted in 127 shot attempts and extremely high shooting percentages on both sides won’t fly for the Thunder for the rest of the season, it was a spectacle to watch the offensive explosion. After the game, Durant joked about playing for a Brooks-coached team that didn’t focus deeply on defense, and was already turning his attention to the final 27 games of the regular season.
“We can’t play that type of defense for Coach Brooks,” Durant said with a laugh. “I’m glad he got this opportunity as well. We’re looking forward to the second half of the season.”
Below is the link to the box score to check out Durant’s entire stat line tonight.