WASHINGTON — Today's All-Star Game was very much befitting the city that hosted it. There were plenty of capitol, governmental undertones, circa 1974: a little bit of West, a little bit of East, a little bit of Red (OK, orange), a little bit of Blue (white) and Ford walking away with the prize.
The Eastern Conference All-Stars, led by game MVP Cheryl Ford of the Shock, came back from an 11-point, second-quarter deficit to hold off the West 103-99 in the WNBA's eighth All-Star Game. The East took home its second straight All-Star Game victory after losing the first six in league history.
Ford put up a double-double with 16 points and 13 rebounds to lead the way for the balanced Eastern squad. Sun guard Katie Douglas, who earned MVP honors last year in her first All-Star appearance, led the team in scoring with 18, while Tamika Catchings of the Fever added 15 points, 11 boards and seven assists.
"It was a really spirited game," said TV analyst and hoops Hall of Famer Nancy Lieberman. "Cheryl Ford was amazing and Katie Douglas could very well have won her second straight MVP award."
"Katie definitely got some MVP votes," agreed sideline reporter and WNBA legend Rebecca Lobo. "She really turned things around for the East. She came in and started firing some threes. Early on for the East, only the Detroit players were scoring, but Katie brought some energy into the game with her outside shooting."
Still, it was a turnaround in the second quarter that brought the East back into the game. After a Lauren Jackson three-pointer, the East was down 42-31 and staring up at a Western lineup featuring scorers Jackson, Diana Taurasi, Becky Hammon and Tina Thompson.
But after early success from the outside, the West cooled off from three-point range and the East took advantage.
"In the second quarter, the East adjusted to close better on the West's
outside shooters," said Lieberman. "They forced them to put the ball on
the floor more and made the West shoot twos instead of threes. They found the
West's shooters and started contesting those shots.
"The fact that the West relied so much on their outside shooting really hurt them," she continued. "They took a record 46 three-pointers, making 17, but they hardly ever got to the foul line.
"Sometimes in a game you can hit a few early and it can be deceiving," the legend astutely pointed out. "It lets you think as a team, 'We can hit these all game long.' But percentages bear out that you often can't."
Surprise All-Star starter Anna DeForge had a quiet first half for the East. But after two straight threes from the West brought them to within three with 48 seconds remaining in the game, DeForge came off the bench to hit a huge jumper, her first hoop of the night, to effectively put the game out of reach.
"That shot was huge!" screamed Lobo. "(DeForge) didn't get a lot of minutes today and I was even surprised that Bill had her in the game so late, but he knows that she's a player who can hit a clutch shot when you need it. It doesn't even matter if she's completely cold."
Especially after the heroics of Mystics guard Laurie Koehn in the pregame Three-Point Shootout, the Washington fans cheered their All-Stars Alana Beard and DeLisha Milton-Jones like the hometown favorites they were. Neither disappointed.
Milton-Jones delighted the home faithful with 11 points and five boards for the victors, while Beard notched eight points and eight big assists.
"They both had solid games," said Lieberman of the two Mystics. "They're solid players and they were both great hosts this weekend."
Aside from typically solid scoring days from Jackson, Taurasi and Cappie Pondexter, on the Western front, it was the veterans who really stood out. Thompson, 32, perhaps making her last All-Star appearance, led the way for the West with 19 points.
"When I look at Taj and Tina, I don't really think of them as older players," Lieberman said after the game. "They might be old in relation to the newcomers, but they're still young and they're very capable veterans, they're athletic, they're smart and they know how to play with each other."
"It was really fun to see," Lobo said with a smile, "because
even after all of the talk about the young guys, the vets still keep coming
"It's really remarkable what they can still do out there," Lieberman continued, "but it shows that if you have that basketball IQ, you can still see and play the game really well even if your body might be past its prime. As that kind of veteran, you know how to have individual success, but you also know how to make the players around you better."
"I think the coaches really understand and appreciate what being a veteran means," Lobo said. "I think both coaches wanted to reward the veterans who have been doing this for a long time. Jenny named Tina a starter, so she understands what it means for her to be in this game."
So the expert's take on the All-Star experience?
"It was a great game for the fans," said Lieberman. "High scoring, lots of records set and the hometown players did well.
"It was just spectacular. It's great to see such fabulous players at their best competing against the league's other stars. It's just a great showcase for our game."
Comets veteran Tina Thompson scored a game-high 19 points, but couldn't lead the West past the East on Sunday.
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