Durant's 46 power sophs past rookies
Oklahoma City's Durant came out on top, scoring a Rookie Challenge-record 46 points to lead the NBA's sophomores to a 122-116 victory over the rookies on Friday night.
"Kevin's a great player and I'm just glad to be on the court with him," said Beasley, like Durant a No. 2 overall pick in the draft. "I'm happy to be mentioned in the same breath as him."
Decked out in Day-Glo orange high-tops, Durant hit 17 of 25 shots from the floor, 4-of-8 from beyond the arc, and made all eight of his free throws. Durant also tied for the team lead with seven rebounds.
Durant helped hold off a late charge by the rookies with a three-point play, an emphatic dunk and two free throws in the final minutes.
"I approached it like a regular game," Durant said. "I wanted to go out and have fun. Fortunately my shots were going down."
With a few seconds remaining, Durant and Beasley put their arms around each other and laughed.
"Our relationship goes way, way back," Beasley said. "To be in this type of atmosphere, in the NBA together, is a blessing. It's a dream come true. It's rare."
Portland center Greg Oden missed the game with an injury, which is not so rare.
The rookies could have used a healthy Oden. They've lost seven straight in the game designed to showcase some of the league's bright young talent during its All-Star weekend festivities.
Asked about the rookies' seven-game losing streak, Beasley shook his head and said, "I definitely have to jump to the sophomore side and make it eight now."
Unlike some Rookie Challenges, this one was competitive until the final seconds.
"We didn't want it to be a landslide," Beasley said. "That's when the pride kicked in. That's when we decided to fight, but by then it was too late."
The rookies closed to 119-116 on a jumper by O.J. Mayo with 11 seconds left. But Durant made two free throws to push the lead back to five.
Like the All-Star game, defense was an afterthought with all the high-flying talent on the floor at U.S. Airways Center.
In the first of two 20-minute halves, the sophomores shot 68.4 percent from the floor, including 63.6 percent from beyond the arc. The rookies lagged at an almost embarrassing 52.6 percent from the field, and 40 percent from 3-point range, but still led 61-58 at intermission.
Each bucket brought shrieks from thousands of pink-clad schoolchildren in prime seats in the lower bowl of the Phoenix Suns' home.
"It is one of the bigger stages," Durant said before the game. "We just want to do it justice by coming out and playing hard."
Durant was no ballhog. On a two-on-none breakaway in the second half, the crowd roared in anticipation as Durant dribbled toward the bucket. But Durant flicked the ball off the backboard to the 6-foot Aaron Brooks, who caught the pass but missed the jam.
Brooks may have been blinded by Durant's orange shoes, easily the game's most dazzling fashion statement.
The only thing brighter was a canary vest worn by rookies assistant coach Dwyane Wade, who otherwise looked like a professor in his spectacles, bow tie and gray suit.
"I couldn't have had a better co-head coach than Dwight tonight," Kuester said.
"Thanks, coach," Howard replied. "You are going to make me cry."
The teams wore jerseys -- white for the sophomores, purple for the rookies -- designed by 18-year-old Tim Ahmed from East Meadow, N.Y. It was the first time a fan-designed jersey has ever been worn during an NBA game or event; in the past, rookies and sophomores wore their regular team jerseys.
The game was more about having fun than actual competition. But Beasley said he came to win.
"It is not cool when you lose," he said before the game. "I like to be the cool guy. Cool guys don't lose. I will play hard."
There was plenty of good-natured showboating. Rookie guard Russell Westbrook dunked and then bobbed his head at Durant, his Oklahoma City teammate.
When Durant hung on the rim after an emphatic dunk early in the second half, Beasley signaled for a technical foul. The officials simply smiled.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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