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Record point total in controversial NBA All-Star Game as the East defeats the West, 211-186

<i>Stacy Revere/Getty Images</i><br/>The offense was free-flowing in the yearly gathering of the NBA's biggest stars.
Stacy Revere/Getty Images
The offense was free-flowing in the yearly gathering of the NBA's biggest stars.

By Sam Joseph, CNN

(CNN) — A team exceeded the 200-point mark for the first time in NBA history as the Eastern Conference won the All-Star Game for the first time since 2014, beating the Western Conference 211-186 on Sunday in the annual showcase of the league’s premier talents.

The star-studded rosters featured some of the sport’s biggest names such as LeBron James, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Nikola Jokić and Kevin Durant.

The scoring frenzy broke an array of records, per the NBA. The East’s point total was the highest ever, eclipsing the 196 set by the Western All-Stars in 2016, while the combined total of 397 surpassed the previous record of 374 set in 2017. The Eastern All-Stars also made a whopping 42 three-pointers to beat the record of 35 set in 2019.

“Everybody was asking what the record was,” Milwaukee Bucks guard Damian Lillard said. “We found out and went after it.”

This year’s All-Star Game also saw the return of the traditional East vs. West format. From 2018 to 2023, team captains (the two players with the highest amount of fan votes from each conference) drafted players from an All-Star pool, regardless of team or conference.

The East was led by 39 points from Lillard, who capped off a highly successful weekend by being named All-Star Game MVP, after retaining his title in the Three-Point Contest earlier on Sunday. Some of his makes during the showcase game were from well beyond the arc.

“Me and Kawhi (Leonard) was in awe of him shooting from the halfcourt line like it’s a free throw … strength, power, muscle memory,” said 14-time All-Star Durant.

Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics added 36 points while Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, playing in his home arena, scored 32.

Minnesota Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns, coming off the bench for the West, led all scorers with 50 points in under 28 minutes. Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – a contender for the regular season MVP award – dropped 31 to fuel the West.

Despite the broken records and offensive masterclasses, many fans and pundits have criticized Sunday’s game for its perceived lack of competitiveness.

Defense has long been considered as optional in the midseason exhibition game, with players preferring to put on a show for the crowd with flashy highlights and play with less intensity in order to avoid injury.

The All-Star Game is a showcase above all, but the wild point totals and lackadaisical defensive efforts have started to frustrate viewers.

With the East’s lead ballooning in the second and third quarters and little to no defense being played on either end, the game was put beyond the West’s reach relatively early on, resulting in a lack of tension down the stretch.

The return to the conference format also saw the removal of the popular Elam Ending, where the game ends when one team reaches a target score in an untimed fourth quarter.

Two-time NBA champion Mychal Thompson, father of Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson, described the event as a “farce” while NBA commissioner Adam Silver appeared exasperated after the final buzzer.

“To the Eastern Conference All-Stars: You scored the most points. Well…congratulations,” he said on-court after the game.

Even the players themselves voiced concerns about the game.

“Hopefully, as years go on, [the All-Star Game] gets back to being what the fans wanna see … I guess guys are trying to figure out how to play hard and be safe at the same time,” Brown said postgame.

Durant suggested that the bloated scoreline had more to do with the game’s supercharged offense.

“The shot-making from the East was incredible,” he said. “Hard to play defense when somebody’s shooting 30-, 40-footers over you.”

Finding a way to reignite interest and inject a shot of intensity in this staple of the NBA season will remain a challenge for Silver in the years to come, as the league attempts to balance the crowd-pleasing on-court antics with competitive spirit.

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