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West Leads Big At Half Of All-Star Game

Kobe Bryant scored 17 points, Carmelo Anthony added 12 and the Western Conference took a 79-59 lead at halftime Sunday night in an appropriately decadent NBA All-Star game.

Amare Stoudemire scored 11 points for the West, and LeBron James led the Eastern Conference with 16 points in an exhibition packed with Sin City showmanship and missing much in the way of teamwork or organization.

But in truth, the first All-Star game held outside an NBA franchise city was almost an afterthought in 72 straight hours of parties, celebrations, exhibitions and every sort of diversion for fans of basketball and celebrity.

The show before the show also was unique in NBA annals: The 45-minute pregame event was vintage Vegas, complete with magicians Siegfried and Roy followed by crooner Wayne Newton singing "Viva Las Vegas" and "Danke Schoen" amid a throng of showgirls.

And celebrities were all over the front row: Diddy, Jay-Z, Beyonce, Adam Sandler, Kevin James, Eva Longoria, Ludacris, Prince, Dave Chappelle, Chris Tucker, Steve Carell, Jeremy Piven, Cameron Diaz, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver. Paris Hilton and Barry Bonds were among those who couldn't get on the floor.

Perhaps all that partying was why the first half seemed to be played with a metaphorical hangover, particularly by the East _ with perhaps three missed alley-oops for every connection.

Twenty of the 22 All-Stars got playing time in the first quarter, with Stoudemire and late addition Anthony combining for 17 points to stake the Western Conference to an early lead with a 39-point opening period.

Steve Nash, Yao Ming, Allen Iverson, Jason Kidd and Carlos Boozer all missed the game with injuries, and the absence of three top point guard appeared to affect the game's flow. Bryant and Vince Carter still were able to throw down electrifying dunks.

Anthony, the NBA scoring leader, added another big dunk 2 minutes before halftime on a give-and-go alley-oop from Tony Parker, who matched Tracy McGrady with five assists. Bryant hit a 3-pointer in Dwyane Wade's face on the next possession, the last in a series of baskets by the Lakers star over last season's NBA finals MVP.

The West made nearly 55 percent of its shots, including Anthony's 6-for-7 display, and recorded 25 assists. The East struggled in most aspects, with Shaquille O'Neal going 3-for-9 and Gilbert Arenas scoring just eight points.