West 73, East 61
PHOENIX (AP) _ In the end, the West didn’t need Cynthia Cooper.
The two-time WNBA MVP, who sprained an ankle last week, watched the league’s second All-Star game in street clothes and saw Lisa Leslie score a record 16 points to lead Western Conference to a 73-61 victory over the East on Monday night.
The outcome could have been worse, like last year’s 18-point win by the West in the inaugural game, but the West committed 23 turnovers.
Tina Thompson, Cooper’s Houston teammate, had 13 points and a record 11 rebounds to garner MVP honors. Mwadi Mabika, Leslie’s teammate in Los Angeles, and Yolanda Griffith of Sacramento each scored 10 points.
Taj McWilliams of Orlando, who finished with 10 points, made two free throws with 2:47 to play to bring the East within 66-59.
Tari Phillips of New York, who also had 10 points, scored 55 seconds later to cut the deficit to five.
But Griffith, who displaced Cooper as the league MVP last year, made a layup with 1:37 to play, opening a 68-61 lead, and Brandy Reed, Griffith and Ticha Penicheiro of Sacramento each made a free throw down the stretch.
Reed, a Phoenix forward left off the West roster in voting by both the fans (starters) and coaches (reserves), was added as a 12th player by the league last week to avoid a fan revolt in the host city. But she fizzled on the court, shooting 1-for-11 and turning the ball over three times.
There were 11 lead changes and three ties in the first half, and the teams went 5 1/2 minutes in one stretch separated by no more than a point.
Then the reserves lifted the East to its high-water mark.
Orlando’s Shannon Johnson and Nykesha Sales, Sue Wicks of New York and Charlotte’s Andrea Stinson all scored unanswered baskets. Stinson was fouled attempting her 10-foot jumper, and the resulting three-point play with 7:06 remaining gave the East a 26-21 lead.
But the West had a backup waiting.
Mabika had seven points over the final 6:46 of the half, and the West outscored the East 19-7 to take a 40-33 halftime lead.
The game was televised in 154 countries and 23 languages, but was hardly a classic.
The West shot 37.7 percent and the East 29.4 percent, and the East committed 15 turnovers.
A bigger factor was rebounding as the West finished with a 60-40 advantage on the boards.