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Published: Monday, 2/18/2008

James MVP of stars; Cavalier's 27 points help East top West

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW ORLEANS - In a proud city still restoring its unique beauty, the Eastern Conference repaired its own image.

Ray Allen scored 28 points, making three straight 3-pointers in the final 3:15, and LeBron James added 27 as the East, widely considered the NBA's weaker half, beat the Western Conference 134-128 in last night's All-Star Game.

Last year, the West humiliated the East in a 153-132 rout in Las Vegas when Kobe Bryant and Co. rewrote the event's record books. However, this time led by Allen's 14 fourth-quarter points and a stunning dunk by James with 55 seconds left, the East salvaged some pride and can return to the season's second half with bragging rights.

James, who added nine assists and eight rebounds, was selected as the most valuable player for the second time in three years. He also won the honor in 2006.

"We didn't want to come out here and get beat up on again," James said.

Detroit had three players on the East. Richard Hamilton scored nine points, Chauncey Billups tallied six points and Rasheed Wallace had three.

Amare Stoudemire, Brandon Roy and Carmelo Anthony scored 18 points apiece to lead the West, which trailed by 13 entering the fourth quarter and rallied behind New Orleans' Chris Paul. The guard's seventh assist of the final period set up Roy's layup to give the West a 122-119 lead.

But Boston's Allen, the final player added to either roster, knocked down his second 3-pointer in 48 seconds to tie it before Paul answered with a 3 of his own, sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy.

Allen finally missed and James poked away the ball, and then came up with the night's most stirring moment.

Slashing through the lane, Cleveland's megastar rose and dunked over several West defenders, much like he did in Game 5 of last year's Eastern Conference finals in Detroit when he scored the Cavaliers' final 25 points.

Paul was called for an offensive foul on the West's next trip. Dwyane Wade hit a layup and Allen scored to make it 131-125. Roy's 3-pointer with 8.7 seconds brought the West within three, but Allen made three free throws to close it out.

"Well, I hope not just me, but every All-Star from the East and West was able to put smiles on kids and on families faces," James said. "I think we all know what happened, the devastation down here and to bring the NBA All-Star game here I think it really uplifted the families down here. We had a great time."

Bryant, who won MVP honors last year, played less than 3 minutes so he could rest his injured pinkie. The 10-time All-Star dislocated his finger earlier this month and doctors have advised him to have surgery.

Bryant, though, energized by the club's addition of center Pau Gasol in a trade, wants to delay any operation until late summer. As soon as he took on the West's bench, a trainer wrapped an ice pack around his hand, rendering him to spectator status.



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