Carmelo could have won MVP

HOUSTON -- In the first quarter, Carmelo Anthony looked like the most versatile player on the floor.

Then down the stretch, he was the East's best offensive weapon.

Combining his strong start and finish with his overall playmaking, Anthony (26 points, 12 rebounds -- both team-highs) was this close to winning his first All-Star Game MVP on Sunday night at the Toyota Center.

Instead, the West slipped past the East at the end and won the 62nd annual All-Star Game for the third straight year, 143-138. And Chris Paul, Anthony's close friend, was named the game's MVP.

"We competed today," Anthony said in his postgame news conference. "From the beginning of the game, we talked about it. At halftime, we talked about it amongst ourselves. We said we were going to go after it. It was a great game, hopefully one of the better All-Star games. Everybody competed."

Anthony competed by bringing different elements to the game in the opening period. He made a jump shot off a screen; he led a fast break, resulting in a Dwyane Wade dunk; he threw a slick, underhanded alley-oop pass to LeBron James for a slam on another breakaway; he nailed a 3-pointer, which he's becoming more known for; and then he scored in the paint with a reverse layup. At the end of one quarter, he had scored seven points in eight minutes, and chipped in three rebounds and two assists.

This season, not only has Anthony been hot from the jump -- he averages an NBA-best 8.6 first-quarter points -- but he has been the same in the final quarter with his 7.2 points-per-fourth-quarter average. That ranks him third in the league, behind fellow All-Stars Kevin Durant and Kobe Bryant.

On Sunday, Anthony scored nine points after he checked back in with 6:26 left in the game. A 3-pointer with 23 seconds to go pulled the East within four, 142-138, and then he had a key defensive rebound with 20 seconds on the clock. But the East couldn't score again.

While the East came up short, the highlight of the evening arguably belonged to first-time All-Star Tyson Chandler. Toward the end of the second quarter, Wade had the ball in the right baseline corner and threw a cross-court alley-oop dish to Chandler (who finished with seven points and eight rebounds). Even though the pass was high, the center still caught the ball from behind, cocked it back and slammed it in one-handed, his shoulder at rim level.

"I got a chance to throw a lob to Tyson Chandler," Wade said afterward, smiling. "I've been wanting to do that for a long time."

On Wednesday against the Pacers, it will be Raymond Felton's turn once again to throw those trademark lob passes to Chandler. And the Knicks, as a team, will have to prove they can get back to playing consistently, like they were earlier in the season.

Anthony's all-around game in Houston represents what the Knicks need more of after the break.

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