TORONTO — Chris Paul was gunning for one of the greats, and he needed an accomplice. Anthony Davis fit the bill.
At one point in the West’s 196-173 NBA All-Star Game win against the East on Sunday night at the Air Canada Centre, Paul — the Clippers point guard and a former New Orleans Hornets star — told the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis that he was shooting for Magic Johnson’s game-record 22 assists.
Paul fell short, finishing with 16, but it was not Davis’ fault. The 6-foot-10 forward turned seven Paul passes into baskets en route to a 24-point night.
“I told him I’d help him out,” Davis said. “I said (if) he’d just throw it up there, I’d try to go get it.”
Paul told Davis to sprint the floor on every rebound and “he was going to throw it up,” Davis said. The result: five alley-oop dunks off feeds from Paul.
“He was open. It wasn’t nothing more or nothing less,” Paul said. “He’s crazy athletic. These games, when you play with athletic guys like that, it’s always fun.”
Davis’ athleticism, and his one-game connection with Paul, made him the rare big man to shine in the All-Star Game. He led power forwards and centers in scoring and was the only double-figure scorer in the game who didn’t attempt at least one 3-pointer.
“It’s an All-Star Game. It’s tough for any big to touch the ball,” Davis said. “The only reason I touched it was off of lobs. … The All-Star Game is really guard, wing dominant. As a big, you got to know that. Luckily I’m in the West where Chris is. He’s just wanting to get assists, throw lobs.”
And Paul has been one of the best in the league at it since his New Orleans days connecting with Tyson Chandler. He’s kept it up in Los Angeles playing alongside lob targets Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.
“That’s all he wants to do,” Davis said. “He’s a great passer, a pass-first point guard. That’s all he does. You see it when he’s playing with the Clippers, and it was definitely fun. He definitely put it on point.”
Though their on-court connection is All-Star specific, Davis feels a sort of bond with Paul, who was drafted by New Orleans and played six seasons there before he was traded to the Clippers.
Paul left after the 2010-11 season. In 2012, New Orleans selected Davis with the first pick in the NBA draft, making him the franchise cornerstone Paul once had been.
“We have a connection,” Davis said. “He once played there and I play there now. We haven’t really talked about New Orleans or anything like that, but of course there’s always going to be a connection when I’m coming in and he’s leaving. It’s kind of like, ‘All right, I’m kind of taking Chris’ spot now.’ It’s always fun to be on the floor with him.”