Howard, J.R. Smith co-MVPs
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Dwight Howard started it with a simple two-handed dunk. J.R. Smith took it to the next level by adding a 360-degree slam.
But Carmelo Anthony and Jay Williams got to their feet when Josh Smith came from behind to swat DeMarcus Nelson's dunk try. He then followed it up with a right-handed jam at the other end.
The athletic skill of the three all-stars and their teammates was too much as the East beat the West 126-96 in the McDonald's All-American game Wednesday night.
Two days after All-American Candace Parker beat five boys to win an all-star slam dunk competition, the boys strutted their stuff in a game that featured more than two dozen dunks.
J.R. Smith, who had a somewhat low profile among a handful of prospects expected to jump directly to the NBA, led the East with 25 points.
"Coming out and doing this when it's unexpected makes it even better," said Smith, a 6-foot-6 guard from Newark, N.J., who is headed to North Carolina for college.
Howard scored 19, Al Jefferson added 16 and Rajon Rondo had 14 for the East.
The East, which led by 11 at halftime, pulled away with a 21-2 spurt to start the second half.
Smith dunked three times during the run and Rudy Gay scored the final eight points of the outburst with two 3-pointers and a layup to put the East ahead 77-47 with 16:12 to play.
The West got within 90-69 on a free throw by Shaun Livingston with 9:32 to go, but Smith and Howard stretched the lead again with highlight reel plays.
Smith coaxed Anthony to his feet again after drilling a 30-foot 3-pointer right in front the Denver Nuggets star's courtside seat. It was his second of back-to-back 3-pointers.
"When I saw Carmelo out here, it gave me a little extra something," he said.
Howard, a 6-foot-10 forward from Atlanta who is projected by some to be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, followed with two-handed jams on consecutive possessions and the East led 100-71.
Howard and Smith were named co-MVPs. Nelson led the West with 22 points.
Howard said the NBA wasn't on his mind yet.
"Right now, I'm going to focus on keeping my grade point up and graduating high school," Howard said. "The NBA will have to wait, college will have to wait until I graduate high school."
Josh Smith skied for a two-handed jam in the second half and finished with seven points. The Indiana high school star played in his third all-star game, making him ineligible to uphold his commitment to his home-state Hoosiers.
But he said he still hadn't made a solid decision. He said he planned to make his choice after playing in another all-star game.
"It's a good feeling for me to get invited to these games and for me to play in them," he said. "It's just an honor to have my name with the future stars and the guys in the NBA."
Sebastian Telfair, the Brooklyn point guard considered to be an NBA lottery pick, had foul trouble and played only 20 minutes. At one point midway through the first half, Telfair turned to the bench and said, "Coach, write that assist down." He finished with 11 assists and only two points.
"Everyone here can score. If we weren't able to score, we wouldn't be here," Telfair said. "I know that other guys were talking about how they wanted to score a lot of points. I decided that I wanted to be the one to distribute the ball to make sure they get their points.
"Being the floor general, being a point guard, that's what a point guard does."
Telfair, who has committed to Louisville, said he wasn't changing his mind about the NBA, at least yet.
"Let's finish up this week and have fun," Telfair said. "I'm not really thinking about nothing right now."
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
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