NEW ORLEANS — With yet another dominant All-Star Game performance, Kevin Durant's place in NBA history moved another step in the right direction.
The Oklahoma City Thunder star, scorching in so many ways this season, carried over his career year into the league's annual celebration. He scored an All-Star Game personal best 38 points, but the East came back from an 18-point hole to snap a three-year losing streak to the West with a 163-155 win on Sunday night in New Orleans.
It was the fourth consecutive year that Durant scored at least 30 points in the midseason gala.
This outburst bumped Durant's All-Star scoring average from 28.8 points to 30.6 points.
LeBron James, who scored 22 points in his 10th appearance Sunday, ranks a distant second with a 24.8-point average.
With 153 total points through his first five All-Star Games — the most by any player in the event's history through his first five — Durant now trails all-time scoring leader Kobe Bryant by 127 points. If he maintains his current pace, Durant could potentially surpass Bryant in another five All-Star Games.
“I never really think about it,” Durant said when asked about his place in All-Star Game history. “I just go out there and play. When I get on that court, I'm not one of those guys that can just cruise and not worry about the game. I got to go out there and play the way I play. And tonight was fun.”
Durant tied West teammate Blake Griffin for game-high scoring honors. The two came four points shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain's 52-year-old record for points in a single game.
Up until the final 64 seconds, when the East took a four-point lead on Carmelo Anthony's record-setting 3-pointer, a debate raged about which of the two players would take home the game's Most Valuable Player Award.
But it went to Cleveland guard Kyrie Irving, who dazzled with an East-high 31 points to go with a game-high 14 assists and five rebounds. The third-year star made 14 of 17 shots in his first career All-Star Game start.
“I was just going out there and trying to have fun with the game,” Durant said when asked if his thoughts drifted to winning the MVP. “Of course we want to win. We were up 18. But leads in this game, they come and go … But it was fun. It was one of those games you're always going to remember.”
Durant, a three-time scoring champion who is on pace to win his fourth scoring title in five years with a 31.5-point average this season, showed New Orleans a sampling of what he's been dishing all season.
He dumped in 12 first-quarter points and added five rebounds and three assists in the period, making five of his eight shots. It was a preview of the all-around performance that was to come.
By halftime, Durant sat on 22 points on 9-for-14 shooting in 17 minutes. He just missed a last-second 3-pointer before the second-quarter buzzer that would have pushed him past Glen Rice for the most points in a half of All-Star basketball.
Durant added 10 rebounds and six assists on the night.
“What I didn't see tonight, what he has done all season long, is defend. He didn't defend tonight,” joked Thunder and West coach Scott Brooks. “But it was a great game.”