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ROOKIE CHALLENGE Anthony makes most of chance



Published: Sat, February 19, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Unofficial Denver ambassador scores 31 in only appearance at All-Star events.

DENVER (AP) -- Carmelo Anthony took advantage of his only on-court appearance of All-Star weekend, scoring 31 points Friday night to lead the sophomores to a 133-106 victory over the rookies in an exhibition between the top stars from the two classes.

Teaming with the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James for the first time since the Olympics, Anthony fell just three points short of his season high with the Denver Nuggets, winding up with five dunks, including three in a row early in the second half while the game was competitive.

Recuperating from an injured ankle and a bout with the flu, James had 20 points. Dwyane Wade finished with 12 points and nine assists.

They'll both be playing Sunday, but Anthony won't.

The Nuggets' best player has spent most of the week hosting parties and serving as an unofficial ambassador for Denver. But a struggle during the first half of the season left him off the All-Star roster and made Friday night his only appearance this weekend on the court.

Rookies competitive early

The game was actually competitive for the better part of 30 minutes -- the overmatched rookie team trying hard not to be embarrassed by its star-laden competition.

Led by a handful of dunks by Tony Allen of the Celtics, the rookies took a nine-point lead late in the first half and held it into the second.

Not until James made a 16-footer with 16:47 remaining did the sophomores take the lead for good.

From there, the lead widened and play loosened up, although it never reached the silliness of last year's game, a 142-118 win for the sophomores that devolved into little more than a dunking contest that commissioner David Stern promised wouldn't be repeated this year.

Allen, Luol Deng and Al Jefferson led the rookies with 17 points each.

Chris Bosh had 26 points and 14 boards for the sophomores and Kyle Korver had 21.

Dunks highlight game

The game, as usual, was filled with great dunks, none better than one early in the game when Wade feathered an underhanded pass in the lane up high for James, who slammed it down hard.

James finished with four slams -- including a thundering windmill dunk -- but that's all the fans will see until Sunday. He declined an invitation to participate in Saturday's dunk contest, saying he wasn't feeling well enough.




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