Shaq leads West to victory
Los Angeles ? 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 a free throw — a rarity 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 hometown 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, but the climax was not the type of Hollywood ending everyone would have preferred.
Bryant had a steal and what should have been a three-pointer with 1:20 left, but the officials only counted it as a two-pointer — tying the game at 131.
O’Neal fouled Tracy McGrady with 37 seconds left, but McGrady made only 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 it 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 Michael Redd for a three-point attempt, but the Milwaukee 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 All-Stars tried to show something out of the ordinary in the first quarter. Shaq stutter-stepped as he brought the ball upcourt and took it to the hole, Yao Ming tried a three-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 dunks, along with a lookaway underhanded lob pass from Jason Kidd to Kenyon Martin for another slam.