West 155, East 145 (2OT)
Garnett Outduels Jordan in All-Star Classic
ATLANTA, Feb. 9 (Ticker) -- Michael Jordan got the start and provided one more lasting moment. But it was all Kevin Garnett at the finish.
Given a surprise start as Toronto's Vince Carter stepped aside, Jordan appeared to make yet another of his seemingly endless series of game-winning shots. The superstar swingman of the Washington Wizards threw in a high-arcing jumper from the right baseline over Phoenix's Shawn Marion that gave the East a 138-136 lead with 4.8 seconds left in the first overtime, bringing a roar from the Philips Arena crowd.
"I didn't think it was going to go in, but it went in," said Marion, who was victimized for a game-winning shot by Jordan in Phoenix last season.
"I thought it was the game-winner, but anything can happen in an NBA game," Jordan said.
"The first thing when Kobe got up, he said, 'I can't believe he called that,'" said Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal, who committed the foul.
Bryant's free throws forced an unprecedented second extra session, which belonged entirely to Garnett.
The 7-footer of the Minnesota Timberwolves -- who played shooting guard earlier in the game -- took the smaller Carter into the low post for three straight jumpers. He added a foul shot for a 145-138 lead with 3:38 remaining, and the West never trailed again.
"It looked like old 23 crept back in the building and was trying to take the game, but for the most part, we hung together and won," Garnett said.
Garnett collected his first All-Star Game MVP award as he scored 37 points on 17-of-24 shooting and added nine rebounds and five steals. His points were the most in an All-Star Game since Jordan scored 40 in 1988.
"The All-Star Game is not about individual," said Garnett, an unselfish superstar. "It's totally a group effort. It's a time for you to share stories, good times, emotional times with your teammates."
Jordan, who turns 40 in eight days, gave Garnett some stories to share. He started very slowly and even missed a dunk in the first quarter. But he became the all-time leading scorer in the All-Star Game late in the third quarter and finished with 20 points on 9-of-27 shooting.
"I think I got a chance to enjoy some good young company tonight," Jordan said.
Some of that company joined Jordan on the Eastern Conference. Guards Allen Iverson of Philadelphia and Tracy McGrady of Orlando -- both of whom offered their starting spot to Jordan -- scored 35 and 29 points, respectively. But it wasn't enough to prevent the East from dropping to 32-20 in the all-time series.
"I was going to try to forget my jersey in the locker room," McGrady said. "That way (Jordan) had to start and go out there."
Bryant scored 22 points and Steve Francis of Houston added 20 for the West, which erased an eight-point deficit in the last two minutes of regulation and blew a seven-point lead in the last two-plus minutes of the first overtime.
Although the first quarter was the lowest-scoring opening period in 50 years and the first half the lowest since 1976, the game fell three points shy of the highest-scoring contest, another overtime affair in 1987.
The pace seemed to quicken a bit after a halftime ceremony in which Jordan was serenaded by Mariah Carey, who wore No. 23 jerseys of Chicago and Washington while performing three songs, including "Hero."
"I thank you for your support," a visibly humbled Jordan said to the crowd. "I leave the game in good hands."
"The halftime ceremony was something I'll remember for a long time," said Francis, who was playing in his second All-Star Game. "I felt like he was talking to me when he said the NBA was going to be in good hands."
McGrady took the third quarter into his hands, scoring 17 points to give the East a 93-86 lead. With 2:04 to go in the period, Jordan sank two free throws to move past Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (251 points) as the all-time leading scorer.
The West overtook the East at 102-100 on a dunk by Shaquille O'Neal with 8:14 to go, but McGrady responded with a three-pointer. Three jumpers by Jordan and a drive by Iverson pushed the lead to 116-106 left and tightened the MVP race.
It appeared to be Jordan's when he flipped in a left-handed shot on 7-footer Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas for a 120-112 lead with 1:58 to play. But he missed shots on three consecutive possessions, allowing the West back in it.
"I wanted it to be a competitive game," Jordan said. "It was a fun ending anyway you look at it."
Bryant had a chance to win it when he was fouled with 17 seconds left but split the pair, and Marion partially blocked Jordan's jumper at the other end.
Despite eight overtime points from Iverson, the East looked dead when Francis hammered home a lob for a 135-128 bulge with 2:09 remaining. But McGrady and New Jersey's Jason Kidd scored four points each as the East surged to a 136-135 edge with 33 seconds left. A free throw by Shaquille O'Neal tied it.
"It's easy to come in with the attitude that you are just going to run down the court and jump around and not play hard, but that's not what it is about," Iverson said. "I think the fans deserve more than that."
The fans got a huge treat when Carter -- who had been criticized for keeping his starting spot -- stepped aside for Jordan in a classy move.
"This is a storybook ending for Michael," Carter said. "I'm sure I'll have another opportunity to be in the All-Star Game, and this is how it's supposed to be."
"I felt like he had taken a beating and he shouldn't have," Jordan said. "I think he was being very respectful."
But Jordan missed eight of his first 10 shots, and the poor shooting was contagious. The East held a pedestrian 23-18 lead after one period and the West held a 55-52 halftime edge.
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