Paul Westphal of the Phoenix Suns stole the ball from Pete Maravich with seven seconds left, enabling the West to hold onto a one-point lead and beat the East, 125-124, in the National Basketball Association All-Star Game today.
Westphal, in the All-Star Game for the first time in his five-year pro career, played a superb all-around game for the bigger slower West.
He finished with 20 points six assists three steal and two blocked shots. However, the game's Most Valuable Player award went to Julius Erving. The Philadelphia 76er star scored 30 points, 13 of them in the fourth quarter. He also had 12 rebounds, three assists, four steals and a blocked shot.
The capacity crowd of 10,938 at Milwaukee Arena booed Erving as he accepted the MVP trophy.
Westphal scored four of the West's final six points in addition to making the game-winning steal after the MVP ballots were collected from sportswriters.
"I'm sorry my winning the MVP was contrary to the popular opinion," Erving said in accepting the trophy, "but I'm proud of it."
"Julius Erving is fantastic," Westphal said when asked if he thought Erving deserved the award. "I have no complaints."
Play was sloppy at times and there were some controversial calls, but everyone came to play.
"It was a fantastic game," East coach Gene Shue of the Philadelphia 76ers said.
"It was a neat game," said West coach Larry Brown of Denver.
Play was ragged at first because, as Westphal said, "everyone was passing the ball too much, trying to be too unselfish."
In one stretch of the first period, the ball was turned over seven straight times down the floor. Things then settled down and the East exploded with a 10-0 spurt to take a 14-4 lead.
Doug Collins of the 76ers and Erving had four each in the court.
The West made various runs for most of the first half, but the East almost always managed to get thelead back to 10.
The West made its last and successful run midway through the third period.
The West, with Kareen Abdul-Jabbar and Bob Lanier playing center, was expected to work the ball inside and outmuscle the East.
The East game plan was to run while alternating Bob McAdoo of the New York Knicks and Elvin Hayes of the Washington Bullets at center.
That strategy worked fine until Hayes, the only player on the East team who plays defensive center well enough to contain Abdul-Jabbar and Lanier, got into foul trouble.
McAdoo was forced to play 38 minutes. He scored 30 points and had 10 rebounds, but without Hayes to help him late, the East was worn down.
Hayes entered the game firing and in the seven minutes he played in the first half, made all six of his shots for 12 points but picked up thre fouls.
He returned to the game with 6:22 left in the third period and the East on top 79-73. He lasted about a minute before he was called for fouling Lanier on what Hayes felt was a clean block. The score was then 85-75 for the East. Shue removed Hayes and the West went wild.
Lanier made two free throws and McAdoo hit a shot to keep the lead at eight points, but the West followed, with 14 straight points.
Rick Barry of ths golden State Warriors had six points in the spurt and Don Buse of the Indiana Pacers, who had five assists and four steals for the game, kept picking up loose balls and passing to the right people. That spurt gave the West a 91-85 lead, before Phil Chenier of the Bullets broke the East drought with a 17-footer.
The West came right back with six straight points to take a 10-point lead.
Erving, playing like he did in the old American Basketball Association, took charge in the final period and, along with McAdoo who had 14 of his points in the last 12 minutes, brought the East back.
A McAdoo jumper cut the lead to two at 115-113, but Lanier made a three-point play with four minutes to play. Then, after a Maravich miss, Lanier put in a 17-footer to put the West ahead, 120-113.
Erving then made an incredible three-point play. He went to the right side of the basket where David Thompson was waiting to block his shot. Erving shifted the ball to his left hand, spun it in off the glass from the other side, and was fouled by Thompson.
An Erving layup on a pass from Maravich got the East to within two again and the lead see-sawed. McAdoo finally tied the score at 122-122 on a pair of free throws. Phil Smith put the West ahead 123-122, by making one of two free throws with 52 seconds to play.
Bobby Jones of Denver then blocked a Maravich shot and Barry dove on the floor to get the loose ball. While on his back he tossed it to Jones, who fed Westphal for a dunk and the eventual winning points with 38 seconds left.
"I never thought I'd see Rick Barry dive for a ball," Bown said, smiling.
Barry fouled McAdoo at the other end and the Knick star sank both free throws to get the East to within a point with 32 seconds to play. McAdoo then stole a Smith pass intended for Abdul-Jabbar and the East called time-out with 16 seconds left.
They tried to run a pick-and-roll play by Maravich and McAdoo, but Westphal stole the ball from Maravich on the dribble. Westphal tossed the ball upcourt to Barry, who held it until the game ended.
Hayes, who said he was psyched up to play, went back in the game to start the fourth period, but played only 30 seconds before he was called for fouling Abdul-Jabbar. He was incensed.
"I go six-for-six, don't miss a shot and the officials don't let me play," said Hayes, who was limited to 11 minutes. "I was ready to play.I really felt good. I was ready to put up all.