- The Washington Times - Monday, February 12, 2001

EAST 111, WEST 110

With a little less than five minutes left in last night's NBA All-Star Game, Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson turned to the scorer's table and jokingly asked those within earshot what they thought the outcome would be.

He didn't wait for a response; he just provided the Answer.

Iverson a k a "the Answer" took matters into his own hands when he packed 15 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter and personally assured the East of a 111-110 victory in front of a soldout MCI Center crowd of 20,374.

Iverson's heroics earned him the game's MVP award as he led the East to its fourth victory in the last five All-Star games. Iverson also handed out five assists and totaled four steals.

"I started saying to the guys, 'Why not us? Why can't we be the ones to come back from 19 points down in an All-Star Game,' " Iverson said.

And his teammates let Iverson lead the way.

"That's why we call him 'the Answer.' We had so many questions on the bench, and he kept responding," Atlanta's Dikembe Mutombo said.

The stirring victory even moved Iverson's low-key coach, Larry Brown. Now if only Iverson can will his 76ers to their first championship since 1983.

"We had every reason to make this like a regular All-Star game and lay down and stop playing," Brown said. "I had no idea we could come from behind. It's a wonderful way to win."

Thanks to Iverson, the East outscored the West 41-21 in the fourth quarter. Otherwise the game was only moderately entertaining the combined score was the lowest since 1975, when the teams scored a combined 210 points.

Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers led the West with 19 points. San Antonio center Tim Duncan finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds for the West. Toronto's Vince Carter, who led all players in balloting with 1,717,687 votes, added 16 points for the East.

For most of the star-studded evening, the larger West team seemed to have a huge advantage against the guard-dominated East. And when the third quarter ended with the West leading 89-70, it appeared the fourth quarter would turn into the dunk-fest most All-Star games become, with the outcome of no particular importance.

However, someone forgot to tell Iverson the game was over, and the East dominated play in the quarter. In fact, Iverson scored 10 points in the final five minutes of the game to rally his team. The East went ahead for good when New Jersey's Stephon Marbury canned his second consecutive 3-pointer, which set the final margin with 28.4 left in the game.

"I had the ball, we were down, so I had to make something happen," Marbury said.

The East seemed to be at a huge disadvantage early on because of injuries to key players. Orlando's Grant Hill (ankle) and Miami's Alonzo Mourning (kidney ailment) were unavailable, and their loss greatly diminished the East's star power. Brown was forced to start Toronto's Antonio Davis at center and Miami's Anthony Mason at power forward. And Davis actually started in place of injured Philadelphia 76ers center Theo Ratliff (wrist).

But Iverson, once the poster-child for all that is wrong with the NBA, is having a year of redemption. Even though some older stars did not play last night, Iverson's grit and determination stood out above all else.

"He's just fearless in the way he attacks the basket," West coach Rick Adelman said. "There were times I thought we closed him out and he still got through.

"But I think you see in him, like you do a lot of players as they mature, on the floor they understand what it is about. Allen seems to have done that. I admire the way he competes night after night."

Iverson, who has accepted Brown's challenge of being a leader both on and off the court, said that he approached the All-Star Game as if it were more than just a showcase. Iverson has found ways to motivate himself, leading the Sixers to the best record in the league. Iverson said it was easy to motivate himself against the much bigger West team.

"We wanted to win from the beginning when they first threw the ball up," Iverson said. "We knew that everyone was saying we could not win because of our size. But it's not about the size on paper. It's about the size of your heart."

And the much larger West team even without injured Shaquille O'Neal (foot) wasted little time in taking advantage of the absence of Mourning, Ratliff et al.

The West got some dazzling play from its starters as it raced to a 17-4 lead, including a layup by Phoenix's Jason Kidd in which he retrieved a tipped ball in midair and an alley-oop dunk by Minnesota's Kevin Garnett that was lobbed to him by former Wizard Chris Webber.

Before the starters were pulled, the West built the lead to 24-10 on another dunk by Webber with 3:13 left in the quarter.

The East got back into the game because of the play of Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen. Allen, who already has a movie to his credit ("He Got Game"), scored nine of his 11 first-half points in the second quarter.

In a somewhat sloppily played first half the teams combined for 26 turnovers the All-Stars demonstrated just how special their talents are in the waning moments.

With a little less than five minutes left in the first half, Carter delivered a pair of stunning dunks. On the first one, Carter beat Bryant to the basket and executed a 360-degree dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. Moments later, Carter struck again, unfurling a one-handed windmill.

The first dunk didn't sit too well with Bryant. As they ran down to the other end of the court, Bryant and Carter exchanged words, although it appeared to be in good fun.

Not to be outdone, Kidd capped the first half by making one of those shots that rarely goes down in regular-season games. With time running out, Kidd sank a 3-pointer from 52 feet to end the half with the West squad on top 61-50.

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