East 119 - 146 West
  for this game

Shaq and Kobe shine as West rolls in All-Star showcase

Feb 16, 2009 - 6:05 AM PHOENIX (Ticker) -- Five years later, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal reminded the league what happens when they play on same team.

They just win, baby.

Bryant stormed out the gate with playoff intensity in the first quarter en route to 27 points, as the Western Conference thoroughly dominated the Eastern Conference, 146-119, in Sunday's NBA All-Star Game.

Phoenix Suns center O'Neal, playing in a two-man game of old with Bryant, had 17 points and five rebounds as the duo were named co-MVPs for the West, which had lost three of the last four midseason showcases.

"Those two guys together are a deadly combination," Eastern Conference coach Mike Brown said. "If they had stayed together, there is no telling how many rings they would have had for their fingers and toes."

The Los Angles Lakers' Bryant, who played just three minutes last year due to a pinkie injury, captured his third award at the event. He teamed with old Lakers teammate O'Neal and coach Phil Jackson for the first time since June 2004, when the trio fell to the Detroit Pistons in the NBA Finals.

Prior to that, though, Kobe and Shaq won three titles at the start of the decade, forming one of the most potent tandems in NBA history.

"It felt like old times," O'Neal said. "I miss those old times. He was really looking for me and especially when we went to the pick-and-roll and they had Rashard Lewis on me. He was really looking for me."

They may be best known for a long-standing feud, which has been reported ad nauseam in the media. But the pairing apparently have buried the hatchet - and it showed in the postgame ceremony, which saw them raise the MVP trophy in unison.

"It was fun to interact," Bryant said of his relationship with O'Neal. "We were just having fun. In terms of being nostalgic, we are not going to the room and watch 'Steel Magnolias' together. We had a good time that's all."

The reigning league MVP, Bryant set the tone for the contest by scoring 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting in the first quarter, when his shot total fell two shy of the NBA record for the midseason showcase - set by Bill Sharman of the Boston Celtics in 1960.

The West, for all intents and purposes, won the game in that opening period - during which it engineered a 26-7 run to end the quarter en route to a 34-27 advantage heading into the second.

Amare Stoudemire scored 19 points and Chris Paul added 14 and 14 assists for the West, which led 72-67 at halftime and outscored the East, 38-24, in the third to take control of the game.

With trade rumors swirling around him, Stoudemire may have played his last game in host city Phoenix, which has been rumored to be in complete turmoil, culminating in the apparent termination of coach Terry Porter this coming week.

"I don't know what to say about that," Stoudemire said. "Terry was pretty good with us. It wasn't going as well as we planned, but anytime you make a change, you have to make a negative to a positive if that happens."

Assistant coach Alvin Gentry has been rumored to be the incumbent on the bench.

"I like Alvin," Stoudemire said. "I have been a player under Alvin for four years, so we have built a good relationship. He is a good player coach."

A two-time MVP at the event, Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James scored 20 points and Paul Pierce and Dwyane Wade added 18 apiece for the East, which had a significant size disadvantage. It was outrebounded, 51-38.

Speaking of big men, O'Neal provided many of the game's highlights, beginning with an impromptu dance with hip-hop group JabbaWockeeZ during pregame introductions.

"I wanted to do something a little bit different and unique," Shaq said. "They are the best dance crew out there, so I just wanted to do something different. I realize that this might be my last (All-Star Game), so I wanted to make it memorable for myself and the fans."

According to Bryant, it was not a surprise to see O'Neal shuck and jive.

"It is nothing I haven't seen before," he said.

O'Neal took that to the court, where he and Paul switched roles. The 7-1 O'Neal threw a pass between the legs of Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard - the game's top vote-getter - to the diminutive Paul, who gave it back to Shaq for a slam.

O'Neal did all that damage in limited minutes, a fact not lost on Jackson, the Western Conference's head man.

"That's the first time I have seen a MVP that played just 11 minutes in an All-Star game," the coach said of O'Neal. "But he really had an impact on the game; there is no doubt about that. The impact was short-spelled and strongly felt."

Ironically, the game started out with some uncharacteristic defensive intensity, with the core of the gold-medal winning United States basketball team providing the impetus.

Bryant, Howard, James, Paul of the New Orleans Hornets and Wade of the Miami Heat dug in on defense before being honored with special rings at halftime in memory of their stirring win in Beijing this summer. Injured Toronto Raptors forward Chris Bosh also was on hand.

The architect of that team, Jerry Colangelo, spoke on behalf of the club and President Barack Obama - via video message - spoke to the crowd to provide for an interesting but extended intermission.

But the game slowly got away from the East in the third, when Bryant nailed a 3-pointer in Howard's face to give his team an 89-74 lead. Stoudemire's free throw on the West's next possession gave the club its largest lead of the game to that point.

While everyone expected one last run from the East in the fourth, it was not to be. The final minutes turned into a spontaneous dunk contest as James - who hinted Saturday night that he will enter next year's event - threw one down off the glass after all nine other players moved aside.

Portland Trail Blazers guard Brandon Roy, Tony Parker of the San Antonio Spurs and the Lakers' Pau Gasol scored 14 apiece for the West.

"In a game like this, there really isn't any flow," Pierce said. "You don't have the practice time you just go out there and play to the best of your ability, try to blend in with the rest of the guys."