Chris Paul celebrates after winning MVP in the 2013 NBA All-Star game. (Ronald Martinez / Getty…)
HOUSTON — There were reminders everywhere of the greatness Chris Paul brings to the Clippers and the greatness he could have brought to the Lakers had NBA Commissioner David Stern never uttered the phrase "basketball reasons."
Paul threw alley-oop passes to Blake Griffin, Lob City achieving liftoff inside the Toyota Center.
He made a flurry of shots, including a memorable pull-up three-pointer over Joakim Noah.
He also came up with a steal and found All-Star teammate Kobe Bryant for a layup and there was nothing Stern, who voided the proposed Paul-to-the-Lakers trade before last season, could do about it.
Paul and Bryant were a duo to behold, if only for one night, during the West's 143-138 victory over the East on Sunday.
Paul collected 20 points, 15 assists and four steals on the way to being selected the game's most valuable player, and Bryant made a stunning pair of late-game blocks on LeBron James, showing that he's got plenty left in his 15th All-Star appearance.
"Pretty special," Paul said of his first MVP award. "It's something I've never done. And it's something that I definitely coming into the game I wasn't trying to achieve or thinking that it might even be possible."
It seemed doable practically from tipoff, when Paul fed Griffin for dunks on two of the West's first three possessions. But Paul had to contend with another scoring barrage from Kevin Durant, who finished with 30 points on 13-for-24 shooting.
Durant became the first player to score at least 30 points in three consecutive All-Star games.
Bryant applied the finishing touches by blocking a pair of jumpers by James, one of the blocks triggering a Durant dunk that gave the West a 10-point lead with 21/2 minutes left.
"He didn't really say much," said Bryant, who added to his All-Star career scoring record with nine points. "He said I fouled him."
Bryant continued his recent run as a pass-first player, amassing nearly as many assists (eight) as shots (nine). He even got a taste of Lob City, throwing a touch alley-oop pass to Griffin for a dunk.
Griffin finished with 19 points on nine-for-11 shooting, with eight of his nine baskets coming on dunks.
James wasn't quite as efficient after a recent run of stirring effectiveness in which he scored at least 30 points while making more than 60% of his shots in six consecutive games.
The Miami Heat star had 19 points on seven-for-18 shooting. Bryant didn't help matters with his defense.
"It was just two guys who love to compete, love to go at it," James said. "It was a lot of fun."
The West players had some amusing moments with East fill-in starter Chris Bosh, dribbling between his legs and making the Heat forward look more suited to the D-League All-Star game on several plays.
Paul, the first Clipper to win the All-Star MVP award, also had his way with Noah when the Chicago Bulls center came out on the perimeter to defend him in the fourth quarter. Paul repeatedly dribbled between his legs before pulling up for a three-pointer.
"I didn't know what I was going to do," Paul said. "Part of me wanted to try some moves and try and get by him. He just backed up so I figured I'd shoot it. Don't waste any time."
Dwight Howard made the most of limited playing time, the Lakers center getting nine points and seven rebounds in only 14 minutes. After he made a three-pointer midway through the third quarter, Howard holstered his hands in a move made famous by West teammate Russell Westbrook.
Howard pointed at Westbrook on the bench and soon joined him there, sitting out the rest of the game to protect the torn labrum in his left shoulder.
The West wouldn't need Howard with the Laker and the would-be Laker doing their thing.