When his imagination is flowing, George Gervin says he feels unstoppable.
The Iceman's imagination flowed out of control yesterday. He put on an incredible offensive show in the 30th annual National Basketball Association All-Star Game that left a sellout Capital Centre crowd of 19,035 cheering and his teammates layishly praising his skills.
Gervin dunked, jump shot, and dipsy-doodled his way to 34 points and was named the game's most valuable player as the East upset the West in overtime, 144-136.
This was the first All-Star Game to go into overtime since 1954, the second-highest scoring game ever, and the second-largest crowd ever. Gervin's 34 points were the most by an individual since Rick Barry scored 38 in 1967.
"He's (Gervin) the greatest offensive machine since Wilt Chamberlain," said Elvin Hayes, the only Bullet in the game. "And he does it all without any effort. It's a shame for a player to be that good. Just a shame. He can have a bad night, but no defense can stop him."
Gervin was not the only all-star whose imagination was clicking yesterday.
There were behind-the-back and between-the-legs passes and 360-degree spinning shots to make most coaches of the fundamental game cringe in their seats.
The final outcome was only incidental as the spectacular individual play mesmerized the spectators into forgetting about the score most of the time.
"We all just played like a bunch of kids having fun," said Gervin, who added 10 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
The game still went down to the wire, though, and Houston's Moses Malone and Boston rookie Larry Bird made the difference in the overtime.
Bird made an amazing 25-foot pass through heavy traffic to Malone who was all alone underneath and dunked in the basket that put the East ahead, 128-126, with 37 seconds left in regulation.
Paul Westphal sent the game into overtime with a 17-footer 20 seconds later. Bird missed a long shot at the top of the key in the final second, forcing the overtime.
Bird and Malone each scored five points in the extra session. A Bird three-point shot, the only successful one of the game, put the East on top, 139-136, with 1:45 left as the East scored the game's final eight points.
It was only fitting that the last basket of the game was scored by Gervin after another incredible pass from Bird.
Eddie Johnson's jump shot was off and a long rebound kicked out toward Bird. As Bird spotted Gervin underneath the basket, instead of grabbing the rebound, he flicked the ball over his right shoulder with his left hand seemingly without looking.
The West outscored the East, 14-0, in the final two minutes of the first period and the first minute of the second and took a 39-28 lead.
Before that, the East had taken a 28-25 advantage as Gervin scored 13 points in the game's first nine minutes.
His show-stopping basket came when he drove to his right around Earvin (Magic) Johnson and went up to shoot a layup.The 7-foot-2 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was there waiting to block it. So, Gervin, who is 6-7, dipped his head, crossed underneath the basket and laid the ball in left-handed, spinning it off the glass back over his head. A stunned Abdul-Jabbar was left hanging in the air on the other side of the hoop.
The West started its 14-0 run as soon as Gervin went out for a rest, and Seattle's Dennis Johnson had eight of those points.
The East, with the muscle superiority, just kept banging away and eventually tied the score at 58 with 1:50 left in the first half on two fast-break dunks by Gervin and an Eddie Johnson basket after a rebound and assist from Gervin.
The score was tied at 64 at the half. The East unloaded with a 18-2 spurt midway through the third period to take 96-79 lead. The irrespressible Gervin had seven of those points, including one rock-the-cradle hook dunk after a feed from Julius Erving.
The West got back in the game by playing backup center Jack Sikma at forward. With him in the game along with Abdul-Jabbar, the West clawed back and finally tied the score at 120 on a Westphal 15-footer.
Malone finished with 20 pints for the East, but one of the most impressive performances was turned in by Atlanta's Johnson. He made 11 of 16 shots and had seven assists and six steals.
"A lot of people might have thought I didn't deserve to be a starter in this game," Johnson said. "I had something to prove not only to them, but to myself."
Because the East backup center, Bill Cartwright of New York, was weak from a bout with the flu and because Malone was having some trouble containing Abdul-Jabbar. Hayes played a lot at center. He scored 12 points, with five rebounds and four blocked shots.
"I didn't let Kareem get the position he wanted and that neutralized him," Hayes said. "I usually do pretty good against him. They needed me for defense today. I don't have the fancy stuff like Gervin or Doctor J's one-hand moves. I get by by going into the pits and playing hard."
The Capital Centre crowd also gave Hayes a 35-second standing ovation when he was introduced before the games. Hayes, playing in his 12th straight All-Star Game, said he was deeply moved.
"I think it was their way of showing their admiration to me as a player. The fans were showing me how much they cared and were thanking me for the job I've done throughout my career. They were just showing their love for me and I love them, too."
Former De Matha High School star Adrian Dantley, from the Utah Jazz, led the West with 23 points and Westphal added 21.
Abdul-Jabbar scored 17 points, adding 16 rebounds, nine assists and six blocked shots. He also had a game-high nine turnovers.