Kobe Bryant celebrated his NBA All-Star Game farewell and Russell Westbrook sent the retiring Los Angeles Lakers legend out on a winning note.
Westbrook hit seven triples en route to 31 points to pace a balanced attack, and the West shot past the East 196-173 in the 2016 NBA All-Star Game on Sunday in Toronto.
Westbrook was named the NBA All-Star MVP for the second straight year and became the first to repeat since Bob Pettit turned the trick in 1958-59.
Last year, the lightning-quick Oklahoma City guard had 41 points in the West’s 163-158 victory in New York.
“I’m happy to win it and be a part of Kobe’s last game,” said Westbrook, who added eight rebounds with five assists in just 22 minutes. “Being from LA, I watched him grow up and I’m honoured to be in the game with him.”
Bryant, who will call it quits at the end of this season, finished with 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting, along with six rebounds and seven assists.
With about a minute left in the game, the 18-time NBA All-Star selection came out to a thunderous, well-deserved standing ovation with chants of “Ko-Be, Ko-Be.”
“It was fun,” said Bryant, 37, in his post-press conference. “I had a blast playing with these guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench. All those things are just fun. I had a great, great time.”
Hall of Famer Magic Johnson said, “There will never be another Kobe Bryant. We were all blessed to watch him play for 20 years. I’m glad he’s enjoying his moment because he deserves it.”
Paul George led the East with a game-high 41 points, including nine triples, but fell a point short of matching Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star scoring record.
“I’m happy I got that 41 in Kobe’s last showing,” George said. “That was in honour of him.”
Stephen Curry netted 26 points, Anthony Davis had 24, James Harden and Kevin Durant dropped in 23 apiece, and Chris Paul accumulated 14 with 16 assists as the West set a record for most points in the league’s mid-season showcase.
John Wall had 22, DeMar DeRozan added 18, and Andre Drummond finished with 16 for the East, while LeBron James chipped in 13.
Before tipoff, the NBA honoured Bryant with a video tribute on the giant overhead scoreboard.
Minutes later, fans at the sold-out Air Canada Centre were treated to a wide-open, free-wheeling playground-type exhibition, featuring slick passes, alley lobs for rim-rattling dunks and long distance shot-making by the NBA’s best.
The West led 92-90 at halftime as both teams combined for an All-Star record for most points tallied in a half, easily eclipsing the 165 established the previous two years.
Ahead 102-100 early in the second half, the West created separation, with a 17-2 blitz behind 11 Westbrook points, including three triples, to open up a 119-102 cushion.
Led by George, the East rallied to within 132-131 with just over two minutes left in the third period.
But the West regained control, took a 145-136 advantage into the final frame and cruised to their fifth win in the last six decisions in the annual star-studded match-up.
The East still leads the all-time series, 37-28.
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