LeBronís All-Star MVP Performance Helps East Edge West
Posted Feb 18 2008 1:05AM
East 134, West 128
NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 17 (AP) -- Toss some leftover Mardi Gras beads toward the East. LeBron James and his crew earned them.
Outdunking, outpassing and outperforming their more trumpeted counterparts from the Western Conference, the Eastern Conference All-Stars avenged a year-old beating with a 134-128 win on Sunday night.
Ray Allen scored 28 points, making three straight 3-pointers in the final 3:15, and James added 27, including a did-he-really-do-that? dunk in the last minute to propel the East and earn MVP honors.
Last year, the West humiliated the East in a 153-132 rout in Las Vegas when Kobe Bryant and Co. rewrote the event's record books. However, this time led by Allen's 14 fourth-quarter points and James, the East salvaged some pride and can return to the season's second half with bragging rights.
"They beat up on us pretty bad last year,'' James said. "We didn't want to allow that to happen. We wanted to win.''
James, who added nine assists and eight rebounds, was MVP for the second time in three years. He also won the honor in 2006, when the East beat the West in Houston.
Amare Stoudemire, Brandon Roy and Carmelo Anthony scored 18 points apiece to lead the West, which trailed by 13 entering the fourth quarter before rallying behind New Orleans' own Chris Paul. The sensational guard's seventh assist of the final period set up Roy's layup to give the West a 122-119 lead.
But Boston's Allen, the final player added to either roster, knocked down his second 3-pointer in 48 seconds to tie it before Paul answered with a 3, sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy.
Allen finally missed and James poked away the ball, and then came up with the night's most stirring moment.
Slashing through the lane, Cleveland's megastar rose and dunked over several West defenders, much like he did in Game 5 of last year's Eastern Conference finals in Detroit when he scored the Cavaliers' final 25 points
"We had two people on him,'' Paul said. "but that still wasn't enough.''
Paul was called for an offensive foul on the West's next trip. Dwyane Wade hit a layup and Allen scored to make it 131-125. Roy's 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds brought the West within three, but Allen made three free throws to close it out.
The weekend in New Orleans was about much more than spectacular dunks, a game featuring marginal defense or collecting strings of beads while strolling down boozy Bourbon Street. The NBA came to the Big Easy hoping to help this special city continue its comeback from Hurricane Katrina, the effects of which are still being felt 2 1/2 years since she blasted through.
On Friday, the world's biggest basketball names as well as hundreds of volunteers fanned out to all sides of the city to help refurbish playgrounds, paint houses and lend a hand with whatever they could on a day devoted to community service.
Many of the players were moved by the experience and came away with a greater sense of what the area has gone through and the monumental work that lies ahead in the Gulf Coast Region.
"Well, I hope not just me, but every All-Star from the East and West was able to put smiles on kids and on families faces,'' James said. "I think we all know what happened, the devastation down here and to bring the NBA All-Star game here I think it really uplifted the families down here. We had a great time.''
Bryant, who won MVP honors last year, played less than 3 minutes so he could rest his injured pinkie. The 10-time All-Star dislocated his finger earlier this month and doctors have advised him to have surgery.
Bryant, though, energized by the club's addition of center Pau Gasol in a trade, wants to delay any operation until late summer. As soon as he took on the West's bench, a trainer wrapped a large ice pack around his entire hand, rendering arguably the league's top player to spectator status.
The West could have used him.
"There's one player we really, really missed, and that was Kobe,'' West coach Byron Scott of New Orleans said. "Obviously, Kobe would have loved to play.''
New Jersey's Jason Kidd spent the weekend wondering whether he would be going back to the Nets or changing into a Dallas jersey. A complex trade, snagged when Mavericks guard Devean George blocked the deal, may have new life.
The clubs still hope to get a deal done before Thursday's deadline.
Players were grooving even before they hit the floor.
Introduced under a balcony resembling one in the city's historic French Quarter, several of the All-Stars danced as a local brass band filled New Orleans Arena with the sounds that exemplify the area's laid-back, fun-loving ethos: Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez - Let The Good Times Roll.
The East came out flying, getting seven dunks and a layup in the first 5 minutes to take an early 11-point lead before the West awakened. Paul and Hornets teammate David West sparked the West, which cut it to two before James, Kidd and Dwight Howard, whose Superman routine won him Saturday's dunk contest, put on passing display like they were playing pickup ball in the schoolyard.
On one possession, Kidd threw a lob pass to James, who then bounced it off the glass for a charging Howard, who slammed it in. Both teams were scoring so quickly in the second quarter that the p.a. announcer was having a hard time keeping up.
The game was missing one of its biggest stars as Shaquille O'Neal was not selected, snapping his record-tying 14-year run. Without O'Neal, there were no comedic moments like when Shaq pulled out a giant sneaker phone or made like a point guard and dribbled his way up the court.
Notes: Phoenix will host next year's All-Star game. The event was last held there in 1995, when the West won 139-112 and Sacramento's Mitch Richmond was named MVP. ... Celtics C Kevin Garnett, the leading vote getter who missed the game because of an abdominal strain, worked out for coach Doc Rivers on Sunday. He's expected to practice with the club in Denver on Monday and could return to action on Tuesday. "I'm back to my old self again,'' he said. ... The East attempted 36 3-pointers, breaking the record of 30 set by the West in 2002. ... Paul's 14 assists are the most since Kidd had 14 in 2000. ... James is the 11th multiple MVP winner.
Copyright 2008 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited