- The Washington Times - Monday, February 18, 2008

NEW ORLEANS — The Eastern Conference held off a fourth-quarter charge by the Western Conference to win its second All-Star Game in three seasons, triumphing 134-128 last night.

LeBron James earned MVP honors after notching 27 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and two steals in 30 minutes of play.

Eastern Conference teammate Ray Allen — who wasn’t even on the original roster but took the injured Caron Butler’s place — made a strong push for MVP consideration, scoring 28 points in 18:54 of play, including 23 in the second half.

The West’s fourth-quarter surge turned what had been a snoozer of a contest for three quarters into a shootout.

The East led 74-65 at halftime and remained ahead 106-93 heading into the fourth quarter.

But the West went on a 21-6 charge in a span of 6:26 to take a 114-112 lead. The final five minutes of the game featured six lead changes before James took the ball the length of the court, drove the lane and split two defenders for a tomahawk jam that gave the East a 127-125 lead that it never relinquished.

Three Western Conference players — Carmelo Anthony, Brandon Roy and Amare Stoudemire — scored 18 points apiece. Fan favorite Chris Paul of the New Orleans Hornets added 16 points and 14 assists.

Wizards forward Antawn Jamison got into the game with a little less than six minutes left in the first quarter and immediately found himself at a disadvantage, having to guard Houston’s Yao Ming, who is roughly nine inches taller.

“I enjoyed every moment of it. Having to guard Yao, Dirk [Nowitzki], [Carlos] Boozer and [David] West, it’s fun,” Jamison said. “It’s what it’s all about.”

Right away, Yao hit a turnaround jumper over Jamison to cut the score to 18-12. On the opposite end, Jamison launched a 3-point attempt that rimmed in and out.

Jamison missed his second attempt but then scored with 30 seconds left in the quarter with a layup that gave the East a 32-26 lead. Jamison finished with just those two points in 12:12 of play.

“I had a good time out there just running the floor,” Jamison said. “Chauncey [Billups] was telling me, ‘Go set a pick.’ LeBron was telling me, ‘Go get the rebound.’ [Kevin Garnett] was saying, ‘Run the floor, big man.’ Just being out there was great.”

The East, paced by Slam Dunk contest winner Dwight Howard, put on a mini rim-rocking display midway through the second quarter.

Jason Kidd darted upcourt and lobbed the ball to James, who went airborne and then lobbed the ball to Howard for a monster jam. On the next trip down the floor Howard returned the favor, tossing the ball up to James for a dunk. Howard then deflected the inbounds pass to James in the lane, and James then tossed the ball to a skying Howard for another explosive alley-oop that gave the East a 59-50 lead with 6:11 left to play in the half.

The lead fluctuated down the stretch of the second quarter, but the East regained its nine-point advantage by halftime.

Kobe Bryant made a brief appearance, playing the first three minutes of the game before returning to the bench to rest his injured right hand. He has a torn ligament in his pinky.

The Wizards’ Butler continued to soak up the All-Star experience despite not playing. During pregame introductions Butler — decked out in a gray suit — couldn’t help but beam as the fans cheered when the forward’s name was announced.

Later, while lined up across the court with his Eastern Conference teammates and listening to the introductions for the Western Conference players, Butler spotted his family in the stands. He grinned and waved proudly before walking over five spots to joke with Jamison before returning to his place next to Garnett.


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