Why not start with a Vince Carter dunk and a Shaq reaction?
When people think back to NBA All-Stars battling on the Verizon Center hardwood in Washington, D.C. in 2001, they call it a great game. That’s slightly inaccurate. It was a great finish that came down to the very last possession and a missed attempt by Tim Duncan. But large chunks of the rest of the game were a sloppy mess, the two teams combined for 40 turnovers. Still, none of this is to take away from the great show put by Stephon Marbury, Kobe Bryant and MVP Allen Iverson, 15 fourth quarter points, 25 for the game. The East came back from being down 21 points to win 111-100, the stars trading big buckets and making Washington fans forget about how they got there.
The evening also featured homecomings of all sorts. Both Chris Webber and Rasheed Wallace, former Bullets big men, returned to Washington as All-Stars. Iverson, of course, returned to the place he called his “second home, his home away from home” after the game. And David Robinson, from nearby Manasas, Virginia, was making his final All-Star appearance.
The East had young-and-gunning guards and wings to complete — Iverson making his second All-Star appearance, along with Tracy McGracy (1st), Vince Carter (2nd), Allan Houston (2nd) Ray Allen (2nd), Glenn Robinson (2nd), Jerry Stackhouse (2nd) and Stephon Marbury (1st). Unfortunately, this crew didn’t know how to pass to each other in the game’s early going. Turnovers, often from trying to pass too much — with three courtesy of Iverson very early — resulted in the West jumping out to an 11-0 lead that was pushed to 30-17 at the end of one quarter.
While the West featured solid guards — Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Gary Payton and Michael Finley — their roster, and their control for much of the game, reflected the height of Western Conference big man dominance. Shaquille O’Neal, his eighth time on the All-Star roster, was out due to injury. But Chris Webber was making his third appearance, Tim Duncan his third, Kevin Garnett his fourth, Rasheed Wallace his second and Antonio McDyess his first; Karl Malone (13th), Robinson (10th) and Vlade Divac (1st) also suited up for the West.
For the hell of it, Garnett, for some reason, electing to go over a sideline ball boy instead of around him. Congrats Kev!
Meanwhile, the East, without Alzono Mourning and Grant Hill due to injury, rolled Anthony Mason and Antonio Davis out in the starting lineup in their place. Both were adequate at bricking jumpers in the first quarter. But the East also had a secret weapon, and the player for whom you could’ve made a case for MVP, Dikembe Mutombo, who would later that season pair up with Iverson to lead Philadelphia to the NBA Finals. Behind Ray Allen putting in work in the second period and Mutombo defending and rebound against the entire West, the East started to come back. Mt. Mutombo dared McDyess to challenge him… Nope.
But the West went on an 8-0 run to end the first half after the East had cut it to three to keep their lead at 61-50 at half, the kicker thanks to Jason Kidd’s mid-court shot at the buzzer…
East coach Larry Brown went with a second half starting unit of Iverson, Latrell Sprewell, McGrady, Robinson and Mutombo (over Iverson, McGrady, Carter, Mason and Davis in the first half), but the West was still able to exert their dominance, best displayed by Garnett and Kobe exchanging lob dunks with each other. With the West All-Stars holding a 77-64 lead with 3:45 left in the period, Brown turned to mass subbing as a solution, enter Marbury, Allen, Houston, Mason and Davis. Still no success. Mason’s continued missed jumpers and McDyess’ dunking displays pushed the West to a 19-point lead after three quarters. At least Marbury was able to dupe Divac…
But Marbury missed the attempt and then turned the ball over on a subsequent possession. Down 89-70 heading into the fourth, the East looked cooked.
Evidently Marbury wasn’t. He started the final quarter hitting a long 2, and soon he and Ray Allen had cut the West lead to 14 with 7:40 left. Then there was another 7-0 East run — Iverson, Allen, Stackhouse, Carter and most importantly, Mutombo were getting it done. The East continued to score points in bunches — an 11-1 run, all while Mutombo was pulling down 22 rebounds in 28 minutes of action on the night. After an Iverson drive with the finish and foul, the West led just 100-96 with 4:30 left. The East had 15 first half turnovers, but cut that number to to just six the second half.
Defense started picking up and both teams started trading baskets. Mutombo altered a Kobe shot and the East pushed in transition, McGrady following an Iverson miss with a put-back that tied the game at 100. Garnett got a bucket against the smaller McGrady, but Iverson nailed a 3-pointer to give the East their first lead, 103-102. Then Kobe made an effort to take over, scoring four points in a row to put the West up 108-105, only to be answered by a Marbury 3-point shot that tied the game at 108.
The East next tried to double Kobe with Marbury and Iverson, but he moved away from the double; then ran Mutombo at Kobe, he hit the jumper over him — six straight points for Bryant. But Marbury was feeling it. On the other end, without conscience, he pulled up for a 3-pointer. Buckets, East up 111-110.
It would come down to what Kobe wanted to do on the game’s final possession. He pump faked, Marbury flew by, but Mutombo came charging right behind him. An older, wiser Kobe made the correct pass to Duncan. But I guess what no one counted on was Vince Carter rotating and playing excellent help defense on Duncan’s final shot. He missed, game over, the East won, and Washington, D.C. was treated to a show.
Decent game, nice comeback, great finish.
An M.V.P. speech…
A.I.: “Where my coach? Where my coach? Coach Brown… is he around?”