Everybody did what they do best Sunday in the NBA All-Star game, with no single player stealing the spotlight.
In a way, it was a fitting first All-Star game of the post-Jordan era: Nobody is sure who the next superstar is, and none burst forward in this game.
In this case, that meant appreciating the current players for their own special skills instead of lamenting the lack of a single selfish showman.
Carter started things off with a dunk worthy of a contest, Duncan and O'Neal played like MVPs, which they were, and Karl Malone got as little involved as possible as he wished.
"What was the favorite part?" O'Neal asked rhetorically. "Watching Vince dunk, of course. I've never seen anybody who dunks like that."
This was the first All-Star game since 1998 because last year's was canceled by the lockout, but the players hadn't forgotten how to play one of these games.
Heavy on the fancy stuff and short on fundamentals, the players put on as much of a show as they could and Carter's portion of it happened right off the bat.
The first basket for the East was an alley-oop dunk by Carter off a pass from Allen Iverson, while the second was a breakaway slam by Carter that closely resembled one of his best from the dunk contest Saturday night.
Carter did a 360-degree spin to his right, rather than doing it the easy way by spinning left, and dunked the ball with two hands.
The East tried to give Carter another spectacular dunk in the first minute, but Grant Hill's alley-oop pass off the backboard was too hard. Later in the quarter when Eddie Jones tried to zip a pass to Carter and Iverson deflected it out of bounds, Jones grimaced at Iverson as if to say "It's him, not you."
Iverson led the East with 26 points and nine assists, while Ray Allen had 14 and Carter 12.
O'Neal and Duncan were named co-MVPs, the first time the award has been shared since 1993.
"This award is nice, but I'm trying to get the big-picture award. Tim has the big picture award," O'Neal said.
"Everybody shared," Finley said.
Malone, who wasn't happy that the NBA threatened him with a five-game suspension if he failed to show up, played just three minutes all in the first half and missed his only shot.
"I talked to the coach before the game and he said I could play as much or as little as I wanted to," Malone said. "All I wanted to get was a little time to break a sweat, so the minutes I played were fine."
The East leads the series 31-18 but had its three-game winning streak snapped.
After the breakneck start keyed by Carter's dunks, the pace slowed early in the second quarter as the reserves got their minutes. Allen and O'Neal injected some life back into the game Allen with a Carteresque drive and dunk; O'Neal by dribbling coast to coast for a layup and then following with a fast-break slam and an alley-oop dunk off a pass from Kidd complete with a chin-up on the rim.
"Any time you're in a game like this it's a free-for-all, so you let it all go," Allen said. "It's that type of game."
Carter, who won the slam-dunk contest with a dominant performance Saturday night, had a pedestrian dunk for the final basket of the first half, cutting the East's deficit to 64-59.
The third quarter was showtime again, at least while the starters were in. Kidd threw an alley-oop pass that banked in (he did not call glass), O'Neal did a 360-degree slam of his own, cheating on the first 180 degrees (NBC microphones cught him saying "it wasn't a 360, it was a 257"), and Bryant made a sky hook reminiscent of something out of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's repertoire.
The West started the fourth quarter with a 10-2 run, led by five points from Finley, to go ahead 109-99, and the East never made a run the rest of the way.
Kidd came up with the final highlight play of the night with 2:48 left, tossing an underhanded pass 18 feet up in the air that Bryant converted into an alley-oop dunk.
Carter had a chance to close the game with a flourish, but a full-court pass to him was thrown too far and he ended up trying to shoot the ball from behind the backboard.
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