Toronto — In his first All-Star Game appearance, Pistons center Andre Drummond was far from the center of attention.
He got the rookie treatment. Or maybe it was the big-man treatment.
From the pregame introductions, the focus clearly was on Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, earning his 18th and final All-Star selection, as he eyes retirement after this season. Bryant had a pair of pregame videos honoring him and a special presentation by Lakers legend Magic Johnson.
For Drummond, it was a yeoman’s effort, as he contributed much as he has done in the regular season: with a double-double. Drummond finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds in 18 minutes, though the East fell to the West in a record-setting performance, 196-173, on Sunday night at Air Canada Centre.
The combined total of 369 points was a new All-Star record, bettering last season’s total by 48 points.
But all eyes were on Bryant, who finished with 10 points. Russell Westbrook claimed his second straight MVP award, with 31 points and eight rebounds. For the East, Paul George had 41 points, one off Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time individual scoring record.
“It was fun,” said Bryant, a four-time All-Star MVP. “I had a blast playing with those guys, laughing and joking with them on the bench.”
LeBron James surpassed Bryant for the all-time lead in All-Star scoring, but James was more focused on the legacy that Bryant was leaving for the game. In his 12th appearance, James was in awe before the game even started.
“My favorite Kobe moment from tonight? I think the introduction that Magic gave and then him going and talking to the fans here. He got an opportunity to just thank the fans here,” said James, who had 13 points. “And the game has given him so much over these 20 years. To have an opportunity to be able to make a contribution to the Jumbotron, to the video, that meant a lot for me. It meant a lot to him as well, and he voiced that to me.”
Once the game started, the run-and-gun style was on and the offense kicked into high gear. The West posted 92 points in the first half and scored at least 40 in each quarter.
Drummond had to wait his turn, with the reserves. He entered the game for the first time at the start of the second quarter, playing mostly in an ultra-big lineup, featuring three big men: Bulls center Pau Gasol and Hawks center Al Horford and Drummond.
But when the starters and passers returned, Drummond got into a groove.
He got his first basket — and first career All-Star points — after he grabbed a loose ball under the East basket and finished off the play with a two-handed power dunk.
The West beat the East, 196-173, in the highest-scoring All-Star Game in league history, as Kobe Bryant bid farewell.
Drummond had six points in a 65-second span, with three dunks. He caught an alley-oop from James, followed with another alley-oop from Kyle Lowry 25 seconds later, then finished the stretch with a putback dunk off a miss. He played for 8:24 in the first half, and had eight points and four rebounds.
Drummond found it hard to get into a groove, with more of the focus on the guards and forwards tossing alley-oops and pulling up for 3-pointers. He said there were a couple of plays drawn up for him, but the West defense shut them down. That left him to focus on rebounding and waiting for his opportunities.
“Just do what I do best,” Drummond said. “I went and got it off the rim.”
Drummond didn’t fare well in his encounter with Bryant, though. As the two were isolated near the 3-point line, Bryant pump-faked and Drummond tried to block the shot, but flew by, leaving Bryant open for the 3-point attempt, which he made.
“It was kind of a surreal moment for me, flashbacks as a little boy watching Kobe play in all the All-Star Games and this being his last,” Drummond said. “I was a part of history, playing in his last game and it was a lot of fun.”
George nearly had a record scoring performance, with nine 3-pointers, but when Bryant exited the game in the final minutes, Draymond Green (Michigan State) was inserted to try to stop George from trying to break Chamberlain’s record.
“To start out, everyone wants a chance to win MVP in the All-Star Game. That was definitely a goal. So much special stuff wrapped around this one,” George said. “It would have been a special moment to win it. But really, it was really just about coming here and enjoying being with these guys, man, and having a good showing.”
Raptors guards DeMar DeRozan (18 points) and Kyle Lowry (14 points and 10 assists) gave the hometown Toronto fans something to cheer about as well. .
Bryant, passing the torch to some of the younger players, played just 26 minutes and went 4-of-11 from the floor. He tried to pay homage to some of his past, with a sweeping sky-hook, reminiscent of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and some of his own patented moves, including a fadeaway jumper from the elbow of the lane.
Westbrook picked up where he left off last season, hitting 7-of-17 on 3-pointers, becoming the first outright back-to-back MVP winner in All-Star history.