DENVER, Feb. 18, 2005 - There were two "givens" going in to Friday night's got milk? Rookie Challenge: Very little defense would be played and the Sophomore squad would run this year's Rookie team out of the building. That script apparently wasn't delivered to the Rookies' locker room before the opening tip. Maybe Carmelo Anthony, in his home town, called in a favor to the local couriers?

'Melo tallied 31 points to collect MVP honors at home in Denver.
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images
After trailing the Rookie team 64-58 in a tightly contested first half that featured some solid defense by the Rookie squad, Anthony and his Sophomore teammates broke the game wide open to claim a 133-106 victory, as 'Melo collected MVP honors in front of his Denver faithful.

The Rookie squad opened the game running and gunning, using a well balanced scoring attack led by Chicago's Luol Deng, who chipped in 11 points in the first stanza and finished with 17 overall. The first-year players ran the floor and shared the ball, leading to a number of highlight-reel dunks. The Rookies' 64 first-half points were the second-most in a half for the team of youngsters.

Atlanta's Josh Smith, who will compete in Saturday's Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk, found himself at the center of the high-flying show on display on Friday. Smith's teammates continually threw lobs that were seemingly out of reach for the 19-year old, only to find him falling from the rafters with the pebble-grain in hand. Smith, who finished the contest with 12 points, made the flashbulbs pop with three minutes remaining in the first half as he retrieved a Deng feed, twisted in mid-air and finished with an authoritative two-handed reverse rim-rocker.

Deng established himself as a front-runner for the MVP trophy as the Rookies headed to halftime with a 64-58 lead. With drives to the hole and dishes to his teammates, Deng collected four assists and four rebounds to go along with his 11 points before intermission.

With a lineup that included two All-Stars who will play in Sunday's game -- LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- Sophomore head coach and current Miami Heat assistant coach Bob McAdoo was not impressed with his team's effort in the first half.

"We didn't play a stick of defense," McAdoo commented on the first half. "I said (at halftime) the Rookies are having a highlight day. They're going to be on TV all day with their highlights, with their dunks. Let's get back and play some defense. Let's stop them from getting points in the paint. And that's what we did."

Hometown hero Anthony came out of the locker room and made the 18,227 fans forget about the strong first half by the Rookies. Anthony opened the second half with three dunks and a 15-foot jumper, two of the dunks coming on consecutive trips down the court, thanks to lobs from James and Wade.

'Melo would finish the game with 31 points on 13-of-18 shooting. His 31 points ties Kobe Bryant in 1997 and Jason Richardson in 2003 for the third-highest total in Rookie Challenge history. Amare Stoudemire poured in 36 en route to taking MVP honors last year, the same game in which LeBron James scored 33.

"It's a wonderful feeling," Anthony said on being named MVP. "It's a great feeling coming out here on my home court and getting MVP of the Rookie-Sophomore Game.

The game wasn't all dunks, however. In what may have been a final tune-up to Saturday night's Foot Locker Three-Point Shootout, Kyle Korver dominated from deep to total 21 points. All of Korver's scoring came from behind the three-point arc, as he shot 7-of-10 from three-point range, including a full-court heave at the end of the game that narrowly missed as it crashed down solidly on the back of the rim as the final horn sounded.

With time winding down in the game and the Sophomore team continuing to push its lead, Korver was continually fed the ball and given the green light to put it in the air. With less than one minute to play, Korver missed a three from the right side, but Wade coralled the rebound and immediately kicked it cross court for a do-over. Korver would not miss the second opportunity.

After the game, Korver downplayed his shooting and his odds in Saturday's long-distance competition. Steve Kerr, TNT analyst and 1997 Shootout Champion, has Korver penciled in as his favorite, however.

"I think, to me, he is the favorite, with Ray Allen," Kerr said after the game. "If I had to pick one, I'd probably pick Korver. I just think he's big and strong and that's all he does is shoot threes. This is his competition."