West slams East in All-Star showdown

Posted: Monday, February 16, 2004

LOS ANGELES In an All-Star game that was all about dunks, Tim Duncan's made free throw a rarity on this evening with 2.1 seconds left provided an anticlimactic ending to the NBA's showcase event.

In a game featuring 44 dunks and 16 botched free throws half of the 32 that were attempted the West defeated the East 136-132 Sunday night.

Shaquille O'Neal was the game's MVP with 24 points in 24 minutes 18 of them on dunks. Kobe Bryant the other hometown player added 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting.

''Can you dig it?'' O'Neal screamed to the crowd afterward.

They dug it, all right, just not at the end. And they briefly weren't digging Bryant, either, when he casually put in a layup early in the fourth quarter despite being alone ahead of the field.

It was a rare instance of the local crowd treating Bryant poorly, though the booing was very brief and seemed a bit lighthearted.

The glamour and glitz quotient was high, the arena filled with movie stars, beautiful people and celebrities of every ilk. The players gave them a show, complete with a new twist of wearing mismatched sneakers, but the climax was not the type of Hollywood ending everyone would have preferred.

Bryant had a steal and what should have been a 3-pointer with 1:20 left, but the officials only counted it as a 2-pointer tying the game 131-131.

O'Neal fouled Tracy McGrady with 37 seconds left, but McGrady could only make one of two from the line. The West got the ball to Duncan on its next possession for a 10-foot bank shot that put them ahead 133-132 with 26.1 seconds left.

McGrady's alley-oop pass to Jermaine O'Neal went out of bounds, and Ray Allen's two free throws with 14.4 seconds left put the West ahead by three.

The East got the ball to sharpshooting first-time All-Star Michael Redd for a 3-point attempt, but the Milwaukee Bucks' shooting guard came up short and Duncan was fouled after grabbing the rebound.

He calmly made the free throw, and that was it.

Several of the stars tried to show something out of the ordinary aside from the shoes in the first quarter. Shaq stutter-stepped as he brought the ball upcourt and took it to the hole, Yao Ming tried a 3-pointer (an airball), Allen Iverson tried unsuccessfully to take Kevin Garnett one-on-one, and Bryant showed off a few streetball moves.

The highlights of the quarter were a pair of alley-oop passes from Iverson to Vince Carter for resounding dunks, along with a lookaway underhanded lob pass from Jason Kidd to Kenyon Martin for another forceful slam.

Ron Artest came out for the second quarter with a change of footwear, switching from one yellow-and-black shoe and one red, white and blue shoe to another mismatched pair. He changed shoes again for the second half, while McGrady played the entire game wearing a red and a blue shoe.

The best moments of the second quarter included Shaquille O'Neal goaltending a shot into the lap of Bill Russell, sitting courtside on his 70th birthday not far from actress Paris Hilton.

McGrady had the dunk of the period, passing the ball to himself off the backboard, and Jamaal Magloire led all scorers with 12 points to help the East to a 64-58 lead at intermission.

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