SEATTLE – Maya Moore provided the example, reigning league MVP Nneka Ogwumike gladly followed along, and Sue Bird received attention and recognition she deserved.
Those veterans on the West roster knew exactly how to turn the first WNBA All-Star Game in Seattle into a showcase.
“I thought it was a great game, a great pace. You don’t want anybody to get hurt, but you also want to play with a certain intensity to show off your athleticism and I thought we were able to do that,” Moore said.
Moore scored 23 points, Ogwumike added 22 points and the West outlasted the East 130-121 in the WNBA All-Star Game on Saturday, where most of the focus was on Seattle’s 10-time All-Star playing in front of her home crowd.
The veteran West squad with 55 total All-Star Game selections on its roster, pulled away after a close first half. Moore made 9 of 17 shots, including five 3-pointers, while Ogwumike made 11 of 15 attempts off the bench. Bird had a hand in many of those baskets, finishing with a game-record 11 assists and eight points.
Moore was named the MVP for the second consecutive All-Star Game.
No matter what Moore, Ogwumike or impressive East standout Jonquel Jones did in the game, it was secondary to Bird. She was the focus of the entire weekend welcoming the All-Star Game to her adopted hometown for the first time. It was her record-tying 10th All-Star appearance for No. 10, although it was her hope not to have all the attention specifically on her.
Easier said than done. Bird received the loudest ovations as she was introduced, drowning out those that went to Taurasi, Seattle teammate Breanna Stewart and others.
“I know when she always talks about Seattle she always gloats and she always gets a smile on her face. So it was nice to see that love back to her and you can tell it’s a mutual love,” Taurasi said.
Bird seemed more interested in involving others than trying to take control of the game. Bird regularly bypassed her own shot to provide layup chances for Moore, Ogwumike, Candace Parker and others. Bird should have had one more assist after she dropped a no-look pass to Stewart, who proceeded to blow the wide open layup. Bird looked on in stunned amazement while Stewart sheepishly looked just as surprised.
The competiveness started to emerge late as the East tried to rally from a 12-point fourth-quarter deficit, but Bird’s wide open 3-pointer with 4:05 left pushed the West’s lead back to 11. She threw her hands in the air after the make, following an underwhelming performance in the 3-point contest.
“I’ve got no complaints,” Bird said. “Except the 3-point contest. I can complain about that. I was terrible.”
The youthful East was led by Jones with a game-high 24 points, including a dunk in the final minute. There were eight first-time selections on the East roster, but Jones clearly came away as the most impressive individual performer.
“She’s an amazing young talent for this league,” East coach Curt Miller said. “She’s only going to get better.”
Layshia Clarendon, Candice Dupree and 3-point contest winner Allie Quigley all had 14 points off the bench for the East.
The event also saw the return of the 3-point contest for the first time in eight years, conducted at halftime. Bird was the sentimental favorite but finished last in the first round with just seven points. Sugar Rodgers electrified the first round making her first eight shots and nine of the first 10 to advance to the finals against Quigley.
But Quigley – second in the WNBA in 3-pointers made per game – was nearly flawless in the finals, making 19 of 25 total shots to finish with 27 points and easily outdistance Rodgers and her 19 points. A $10,000 donation will be made by the league to the Patrick Quigley Memorial Scholarship in honor of her dad.
“It’s awesome that it’s so close to home,” Quigley said of winning. “I know he was there with me and I was trying to shoot for him.”
The event brought out the royalty of Seattle basketball including Hall of Famers Bill Russell and Lenny Wilkens, former Seattle SuperSonics Gus Williams, Fred Brown and Slick Watts and current All-Star Isaiah Thomas. Even Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman was in attendance, wearing a Los Angeles Lakers Magic Johnson jersey.
Russell and Wilkens were given standing ovations during a first quarter timeout.
“I had chills when Bill Russell was up on the screen and I saw how close he was sitting to us,” West coach Cheryl Reeve said.
The attendees also included former WNBA All-Star Penny Taylor and U.S. women’s soccer team star Megan Rapinoe.
Clarendon set the record for assists in an All-Star debut with 10. The 130 points by the West were tied for the most ever in a game. The teams combined for a record 251 points, eclipsing the mark of 248 set in 2009.
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