Shaq leads West to third straight win in high-flying All-Star Game
Posted: Monday February 16, 2004 1:53AM; Updated: Monday February 16, 2004 2:20AM
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Shaquille O'Neal grabbed a microphone after being named the All-Star Game MVP and screamed "Can you dig it?" to his hometown crowd.
They dug it, all right, especially the way O'Neal and Kobe Bryant led a spectacular dunkfest.
They just didn't dig the way it ended.
In an All-Star game that was supersized with 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 Sunday night.
The West defeated the East 136-132 in a game featuring 44 dunks and 16 botched free throws -- half of the 32 that were attempted.
O'Neal had 24 points in 24 minutes -- 18 of them on dunks, and Bryant -- the game's other home-team player -- added 20 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
"He had an incredible game today, running the floor, getting second-chance opportunities, taking pictures of himself. It was showtime, man. He had a good game," Bryant said.
The crowd wasn't digging Bryant, however, 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 brief and seemed a bit lighthearted.
With the game being played in the arena that's home to the Lakers and Clippers, the glamour and glitz quotient was high in a building 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 made the free throw, and that was it.
"I had a great opportunity to knock that shot down, but it just didn't fall," Redd said. "For coach [Rick] Carlisle to call on me for the last-second shot, that says a lot, man. So I'm appreciative of that."
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 Shaq 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.
After a provocative but scandal-free halftime show featuring the pop singer Beyonce, Iverson and McGrady hooked up on another off-the-backboard alley-oop slam as the game began resembling a dunk contest.
Back-to-back slams by Shaq and Duncan midway through the quarter gave the West its first lead since the first quarter, and Shaq later added an especially demonstrative dunk -- grabbing the rim after the slam, kicking his legs up and spinning 180 degrees before landing.
Shaq banked in a shot late in the third quarter with Magloire grabbing his jersey, then grabbed a camera from a courtside photographer, pointed it at himself and admired his reflection in the lens. It would have turned into a three-point play if not for another Shaq specialty -- the missed free throw.
"It feels pretty good," O'Neal said of winning the All-Star MVP award, his second -- but the first he didn't share. "I'm not really one known to be taking over an All-Star game.
"I said to myself, 'If it's going good, nobody is really shining, I'm going to go ahead and go for it."'
The game stayed tight through the fourth quarter, with neither team leading by more than five points. Shaq provided another light moment with the clock inside of four minutes, grabbing a rebound and dribbling upcourt, his 360-pound body such an imposing threat that Iverson simply stepped out of his way and let him go all the way for a dunk.
Magloire led the East with 19 points, Martin had 17 and Jermaine O'Neal 16.
"I don't think this will be the last time on this stage, but I wanted to play as if it was," Magliore said. "I'm not really worried about whether more people know me now. I just wanted to put on a good performance, because this game is all about individual performances."
Yao and Allen added 16 points apiece for the West.
"It was a great show. We competed, we had a chance," Kidd said. "The East isn't too far behind."