West 122, East 99
-- It's just an all-star game, so why not engage in a little good-natured trash talking?
That's what Alana Beard figured as she prepared to play in her first WNBA All-Star Game at Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday. Beard, the silky-smooth second-year guard who is helping Washington Mystics fans get over the departure of Chamique Holdsclaw, certainly wasn't happy to hear predictions that the West was going to improve to 6-0 in all-star competition.
"We're definitely going to make it 1-5," Beard said Friday. "They don't have anything on us. The West has great players, but we have better players. You just tell them that."
Beard appeared ready to make good on her bold words when she entered the game at the 13-minute 42-second mark of the first half and immediately made things happen.
Beard hit a tough pull-up jumper, snagged a defensive rebound and brought the sellout crowd of 9,168 to its feet when she zipped a pass to Taj McWilliams-Franklin for a layup to give the East a brief lead.
In the end, however, the East could not match a West lineup that featured Sheryl Swoopes, Sue Bird, Lisa Leslie and Holdsclaw, and the West maintained its dominance in all-star competition with a 122-99 victory.
"I have been on a lot of these teams, but this one was a good one," said Minnesota Lynx guard Katie Smith, who scored 16 points for the West in her fifth all-star appearance. "We felt like we were in complete control in the second half. You will look back someday on this team and be blown away by the amount of talent on this squad."
The West even won a little game within the game when Leslie, of the Los Angeles Sparks, successfully threw down a one-handed dunk in the final minute while Detroit Shock guard Deanna Nolan, who is five inches shorter than Leslie, barely missed on two dunk attempts.
Swoopes, the Houston veteran who was making her fifth all-star appearance, was named most valuable player for the first time after scoring 15 points in 25 minutes. Yolanda Griffin, of the Western Conference-leading Sacramento Monarchs, added 12 points and 14 rebounds.
Holdsclaw, the former Mystic who was making her fourth all-star appearance, finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
After hitting that first jumper, Beard had a frustrating night. She missed her last eight shots and finished the game with two points, five rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes. Beard and the East all-stars will have to wait at least one more year to end the drought.
"I'll say it right now: We're winning next year," Beard joked after the game. "What can you say? They played very well. They have some great players over there."
Despite the loss and the rough shooting night, Beard clearly enjoyed the experience. She mingled with some of the league's biggest stars, mixed in some blackjack at the Mohegan Sun Casino and received a little national television exposure thanks to ABC's broadcast.
After the game, Beard was still smiling as she handled a game jersey autographed by each of her Eastern Conference teammates.
"I loved every minute of it," Beard said. "Every game is so serious in this league so it was nice to come out and just have fun playing with so many great players. I really haven't had the chance to talk to some of these players in the past, so it was great getting a chance to just hang out and make some new friends. I had a great time and I can't wait to do it again."
The game featured spectacular plays, such as the baseline shot Swoopes made while falling out of bounds; some typical all-star game sloppiness and a few comedic moments, such as the one when Phoenix guard Diana Taurasi drilled a three-pointer before turning to stare down former University of Connecticut teammate Nykesha Sales as she headed upcourt.
The combined 221 points shattered the previous all-star game record of 159 and even without local attraction Lindsay Whalen of the Connecticut Sun, whose skills would have been perfect for such a wide-open game, the crowd was lively and stayed into the game until the final buzzer.
"The atmosphere was great," Beard said. "I'm used to it being loud because our fans make so much noise, but it seemed like everyone had a good time watching the game. I think we put on a pretty good show."