In an All-Star Game filled with spectacular alley-oops thrown by guards Jason Kidd
and Allen Iverson
and fantastic dunks by players of all sizes, it was the big men who won the game for the West.
Tim Duncan and Shaquille O'Neal are the first All-Star Game co-MVPs since Stockton and Malone in 1993. (Andy Hayt/NBA Photos)
, Tim Duncan
and Kevin Garnett
, the starting frontcourt of 7-footers for the West All-Stars, combined for 70 points and 33 rebounds as the West held off several strong challenges from the East to score a 137-126 victory before an energized crowd at The Arena in Oakland.
"Size really was the difference in this game," said West coach Phil Jackson afterward.
O'Neal (22 points, nine rebounds, three blocked shots), and Duncan (24 points, 14 rebounds and four assists) shared Most Valuable Player honors. Elgin Baylor and Bob Pettit also shared the MVP award in 1959, and John Stockton and Karl Malone did likewise in 1993.
"It was an honor to be voted co-MVP, right next to this great player right here," said O'Neal, sharing the spotlight and the dais with Duncan.
Alluding to his frontcourt mates Duncan and Garnett, O'Neal added, "I think that's a historic front line."
The West led for all but three minutes of the game, and several times built the lead to 11 points. The East staged a magnificent 15-4 run to forge a 91-91 tie with 2:08 remaining in the third quarter, capped off by a Jerry Stackhouse 18-foot jumper. A layup by Chris Webber that beat the third-quarter buzzer gave the West a 99-97 margin after three quarters.
The West quickly regained control of the game early in the fourth quarter with an 8-0 run. With the West ahead 101-99, Michael Finley scored five quick points on a three-point field goal and a driving layup, and Gary Payton made all three free throws after being fouled while attempting a three-pointer to give the West a 109-99 lead with 8:07 remaining in the game. The East never got closer than eight points again.
"It's a battle of size versus the quickness," said Duncan. "And just on this given day, the size won."
The West scored at least 31 points in each of the four quarters, keeping up the pressure on the smaller East squad with a host of dunks, many on alley-oops provided by Kidd, who finished with 14 assists and 11 points. The West scored a mind-boggling 86 points in the paint, compared with just 54 for the East.
"I liked how our guys hung in there," said East coach Jeff Van Gundy of New York. "We had a couple of chances to get ahead, but we couldn't get over the hump."
Iverson, the defending NBA scoring champion who is pacing the league again this year, led all scorers with 26 points and also added nine assists.
"The guys were so unselfish on the team, they wanted to bring the ball down and have me run off screens so I could play the game I've been playing for two years now," Iverson said. "It was just a great experience for me."
Fans waiting to see Vince Carter (12 points) dunk in his first NBA All-Star Game appearance were kept waiting for exactly 2 minutes and one second for that experience. After a short jumper by Duncan and a tip by Garnett gave the West a 4-0 lead, Iverson gave the ball to Carter down low for a quick vertical slam.
Just one minute later, Eddie Jones looped a pass out of traffic near midcourt which led Carter perfectly. He reached into his bag of tricks for a spinning 360-degree slam that invoked memories of his instantly classic appearance in the NBA.com Slam Dunk on Saturday.
O'Neal made his imprint on the game in the first quarter, and nearly made an imprint on the backboard. O'Neal slammed an Iverson scoop attempt against the backboard so loud that it could be heard from the first few rows of seats. Later he spiked a Dikembe Mutombo hook shot attempt in similar fashion. In the second half, O'Neal spiked another Iverson attempt for his third block of the game.
Shaquille O'Neal's 22 points and nine rebounds earned him co-MVP honors. (NBA Photos)
As expected, the overwhelming size of the West's starting frontcourt gave it the edge on the boards, with O'Neal grabbing six in the first quarter alone to lead an 18-13 West advantage.
Both teams attempted several alley-oop passes for dunks, but big hands belonging to the likes of Duncan and Alonzo Mourning thwarted most attempts. One gorgeous connection that was made saw Kidd flip the ball from the left corner to O'Neal, who spun and powered home a decisive slam for a 31-24 edge with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter.
The West led from the very start of the game, but was not able to build the lead until a 9-0 run midway through the first quarter turned a 16-14 game into a 25-14 West advantage -- the biggest of the first half -- with 3:45 remaining. Kidd buried a long three-pointer and followed it up with a 23-foot shot from just in front of the line for five of the nine points in the spurt.
The East staged a comeback early in the second quarter. Trailing 39-30, the East scored eight straight points, punctuated by a Glenn Robinson slam dunk, to creep back within one at 39-38. A jumper shot and a layup by Finley put the West right back in the driver's seat at 43-38.
The East turned up the defensive pressure, led by Mourning in the lane, and got back to within two on a Mourning dunk over Rasheed Wallace to cut the margin to 50-48 with 3:46 remaining. O'Neal and Garnett scored six points apiece down the stretch to give the West a 64-59 lead at halftime.
NOTES: John Stockton and Finley of the West played exceptionally well in their reserve roles. Stockton hit all five of his shots for 10 points, while Finley hit five of six shots and scored 11 points. ... The West combined for an impressive 42 assists, just three shy of the record for a regulation game, set by the West All-Stars in 1986. In addition to Kidd's game-high 14 assists, Payton had eight and Garnett added five. ... Mourning was involved in one the game's best sidelights. He had a game-high four blocked shots, including a couple against the high-flying Wallace late in the fourth quarter. Wallace did finally get his dunk, powering one through before Mourning could get the rim from the other side of the lane.