By Joe Pantorno, Staff Writer
They say everything is bigger in Texas, and the NBA's 59th installment of its All-Star game was no exception. With 108,713 people packed into Cowboys Stadium, the largest crowd ever to watch a basketball game, the National Basketball Association's biggest stars descended on Dallas or "Big D" to dazzle the American public in the NBA's most spectacular show.
The Eastern Conference consisted of superstars like LeBron James, Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. Along with these familiar friends, fresh faces like the Knicks first All-Star since 2001, David Lee and Chicago's Derrick Rose took on the Western Conference All-Stars led by the legendary Tim Duncan. The boys from the West also had big time names like Kevin Durant, Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
If anyone was to think that every aspect of this game would not be huge, they were proven wrong even before the opening tip. Pre-game introductions included a mini concert by famous recording artist Usher and ridiculous entrances by both teams. To say some of these players' egos are inflated would be an understatement, but their skills on the court are a pretty good justification.
It was only fitting for Mavericks' star Nowitzki to score the first four points in front of the Dallas crowd as the defense, like it is in every All-Star game, was very lackadaisical. The game turned into an individual circus, starting when Dwayne Wade alley-ooped the ball to himself off of the backboard three and a half minutes in. The "look at me" show took longer than usual to commence, as it usually starts right at tip-off.
As the game progressed, the pace quickened and the tricks started coming out of the hat as the crowd was treated to some fancy passing, monster dunks and the Nuggets' Carmelo Anthony dropping 13 points in the first nine minutes of the game. The amount of fouls also increased as the referees, all first time All-Stars, were not hesitant to blow their whistles. Even with all the stoppages, 71 combined points were scored in the first quarter, which was just a preview of nylon ripping play that was about to occur.
In the second quarter, Deron Williams of the Utah Jazz took over the game. Williams awed the crowd with great passing and unbelievable skill as the Western Conference hit their stride. From there on, both teams were trading points as the players tried to be more showmen than basketball players, resulting in the play getting a tad sloppier, but nonetheless still fun to watch. The momentum shifted when the East ended the half strongly, as they opened up an eight-point lead as the teams went to the locker room.
After a long rest in the locker rooms thanks to half-time performances by Shakira and Alicia Keys, the Eastern Conference picked up where they left off at the end of the first half. Even with Anthony and Nowitzki draining their shots for the West, James and Howard simply overpowered their opposition by constantly driving to the basket for some flashy and powerful dunks. The East opened up their lead to as many as thirteen when the West calmed down a bit and tried to mount a comeback ending the third quarter down by nine.
Denver's Chauncey Billups started off the fourth quarter with a three pointer that began a 10-2 run in favor of the West. All of a sudden, it was 120-119 and the East's comfortable lead was now gone. As it was in the second, both teams traded baskets until midway through the last frame. Toronto's Chris Bosh, Miami's Dwyane Wade and James took over and once again extended the East's advantage to nine points with three and a half minutes remaining in the game.
The West would just not go away though, cutting the lead down to two points with a minute and a half remaining. After a missed alley-oop by Bosh, Billups hit a long two-pointer to tie the game with under a minute remaining. With twenty seconds left, Wade stole the ball from Williams, who not aware of the score, fouled Wade with 12 seconds remaining, sending the Heat star to the free throw line. Wade hit both his free-throws setting up a down to the wire finish, and one of the longest 12seconds in All-Star game history.
While inbounding the ball, Nowitzki drew contact from Howard, sending the big German to the charity stripe to tie the game at 139. Nowitzki hit both his shots with seven seconds left and the East called a timeout, but the fouls were not over.
After play resumed, Chris Bosh was tripped underneath the basket where he went to the line and hit both of his free throws with five seconds left. The West went for the win down two points. The inbound pass was to Anthony who attempted to make a circus three point shot for the win, but the shot harmlessly grazed the front of the rim crowning the Eastern Conference as winners of the 59th All-Star game 141-139.
As NBA Commissioner David Stern awarded the game MVP to Wade (28 points, 11 assists, 5 steals), NBA All-Star weekend ended with one of the most entertaining games of all time. After seeing the festivities and the action all weekend, it's easy to say that Texas, especially Dallas, does it bigger than anyone in the nation.