East 125, West 115
Iverson Energizes East to All-Star Triumph
Allen Iverson doesn't have to score to be recognized.
Iverson enjoyed a solid all-around game and was named Most Valuable Player in the All-Star Game for the second time in his career as the Eastern Conference posted a 125-115 victory over the Western Conference.
In an All-Star Game that featured seven players 25 or younger but did not produce a 20-point scorer for the first time since 1981, Iverson's all-around performance was what stood out.
The NBA scoring leader, Iverson did not have to take everything upon himself, something he must do on a nightly basis as the star of the Philadelphia 76ers. He scored 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting, but handed out nine assists and collected five steals.
"The game is easy for me like this, just having four other guys, I didn't get double-teamed all night," said Iverson, who scored an NBA season-high 60 points against the Orlando Magic on Feb. 12. "I didn't get the attention that I usually get and it makes it that much easier for me."
"I thought he was great because more than anything, he was the guy that just kept pushing other guys verbally with his energy," said East coach Stan Van Gundy of the Miami Heat. "His intensity got everybody else going tonight and our energy picked up, and I attribute that to Allen. I thought he was great tonight."
Iverson also was crowned All-Star MVP in 2001, the last time the East had won the midseason classic. He scored 25 points to go along with five assists and four steals in 27 minutes.
In the second quarter of this one, Iverson was the floor general as the East scored 17 straight points at one point and used a 23-3 run to erase a 13-point deficit.
Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal also scored 15 points for the East in his fourth consecutive All-Star Game appearance.
It was the first All-Star performance for LeBron James, the 20-year-old phenom of the Cleveland Cavaliers. He scored 13 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes.
With the East holding a 95-89 lead after three quarters, West coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs opted to keep Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett on the bench for the entire final period.
Duncan and Garnett had combined to make 12-of-18 shots and the West was at its best when that duo was on the floor.
"It was kind of understood before that I would not play a whole lot of minutes," said Duncan, who was on the floor for 16 minutes. "That's kind of a sacrifice I was willing to make. It's always a tough thing balancing the minutes with everybody and trying to keep everybody happy and everything."
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant made back-to-back 3-pointers and fed a nifty pass to Amaré Stoudemire for an alley-oop dunk to draw the West within 112-107 with 5:40 to go.
Bryant scored 16 points and handed out seven assists in 29 minutes as the West placed seven players in double figures. Ray Allen of the Seattle SuperSonics scored 17 points to lead the West.
Bryant did not shake hands with former Lakers teammate Shaquille O'Neal prior to the opening tip.
"I'm not really going to make this weekend about myself and Shaquille," Bryant said. "That's just not fair. I obviously respect Shaquille tremendously for what he can do on the basketball floor and vice versa. Even when we played together, we weren't the best of buddies, but we won three titles, so I think everybody has to just kind of leave it in the past and move on from it."
Dwyane Wade scored six points, including a dunk and layup, to highlight a 10-4 surge that Heat teammate O'Neal capped with a dunk as the East opened its largest lead at 122-111 with 2:46 to go. Wade scored 14 points in his first All-Star appearance.
O'Neal, who like Iverson has won a pair of All-Star MVPs, scored 12 points and grabbed six rebounds. He had a thunderous dunk over 7-6 Yao Ming in the first quarter, then attempted his free throw with one hand and promptly missed.
Iverson was part of a spectacular play less than six minutes into the contest when he fed James for an alley-oop dunk that brought the crowd to its feet.
"It was just on a break and my man took his eyes off LeBron and came to pick up the ball and once I saw him make a move towards me, I just threw the ball in the air," Iverson said. "With LeBron and Vince (Carter), you don't have to throw a perfect pass. They will make it look perfect."
In the second quarter, Carter, who was traded to the New Jersey Nets in December, lobbed a pass off the backboard to himself before promptly throwing down a windmill dunk.
A layup by Seattle's Rashard Lewis with 9:46 left in the second quarter gave the West its biggest lead, 42-29. But the East used its quickness to seize momentum.
After Yao's free throw increased the lead to 45-35 with 6:31 left in the half, the East reeled off 17 straight points in less than three minutes.
Iverson made three free throws, handed out three assists and had a steal in the burst. He fed Cleveland's Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who made a jumper to cap the surge and give the East a 52-45 edge.
Iverson had nine points in the half as the East settled for a 61-59 lead.