nbaallstarlogo-300TORONTO– With the mercury stubbornly hovering in the single digits and flirting with zero (Fahrenheit) by game time, the Air Canada Centre had plenty of heat to go around as the NBA’s best and brightest scorched the nylon in a record-setting affair Sunday night that saw the West defeat the East 196-173.

The NBA’s first ever All-Star weekend to be hosted outside of the United States was capped by a suitably competitive game dominated by two outstanding performances. Paul George of the Indiana Pacers set a new All-Star Game record with nine made three-pointers en route to a 41-point outburst. With defense in short supply it was a second-straight year that the game saw a new all-time record for most points. Also for a second straight year? Russell Westbrook won the game’s MVP award. Westbrook topped George’s scoring outburst by pouring in a complete game that had him pacing the West with 31 points, eight boards, five assists and five steals. Both players’ performances, however, were overshadowed by the CN-sized presence of Kobe Bryant’s looming retirement and Kobe didn’t disappoint by contributing 10 points and overall just soaking up the moment. Prior to tip-off the NBA honored Bryant with a video tribute capturing the brightest moments from his 18 All-Star appearances. Additionally, none other than Magic Johnson introduced Kobe in the pregame introductions with a touching speech that emphasized the highs from Bryant’s storied career and also hit on why Kobe has meant so much to the game for the past two decades.

The game started a little sloppily with both squads struggling to find some offensive cohesiveness. The lack of rhythm, as is so often the case for the ASG, fueled the players to bring out their improv and iso-desires and the first quarter was punctuated with comical turnovers off botched alley-oops and the requisite sick jams one would expect to see from the likes of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Kevin Durant. Toronto Raptor, DeMar DeRozan, got the hometown crowd on its feet with a furious reverse 360 jam that would have been suitable for Saturday evening’s Dunk Contest.

The Raptors faithful made it clear that the ACC was, indeed, THEIR house as the applause and cheers for teammates Kyle Lowry and DeRozan during introductions were louder, though not longer, than for even Kobe. However as the game was winding down in the fourth quarter, the WE THE NORTH fan base made it clear that in spite of an 81-point game against their beloved Raps, Kobe was going out with a hero’s curtain call. A standing and sustained ovation greeted Kobe as he walked off the Air Canada hardwood for the last time.

Following Sunday’s game the players made it clear how much they enjoyed this final hurrah. ASG teammate and reigning MVP, Stephen Curry, summed it up tidily by stating “Kobe means something to everybody individually as a
basketball fan and including us, as players. So you kind of have a lot of different thoughts about what he
means to the game and how he inspired you and myself growing up.”

With celebs and professional athletes flocking to town to catch the All-Star Saturday night festivities that featured the greatest dunk contest ever and an entertaining duel between #SplashBros Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry; to say nothing of the highlight reel that was Sunday’s game, Toronto’s own Kyle Lowry reflected on the uniqueness of this season’s All-Star Weekend and Toronto itself, “I think tonight it capped a great weekend, the Slam Dunk, Three-Point Contest, tonight being Kobe’s last All-Star Game, record set by Paul and Russ getting back-to-back MVP. But Toronto,I think we put ourselves on the map a little bit around the world.”

Be sure to check back with SiriusXM Sports and our updating coverage and features from Toronto and the NBA’s All-Star Weekend.

 

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