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Anthony leads Sophomores to win in NBA Rookie Challenge
Updated: 2005-02-20 09:42

Carmelo Anthony, the Denver Nuggets' star forward, scored 31 points here Friday to lift the second-year squad to victory over the rookies as the NBA All-Star festivities tipped off on his home court.

Carmelo Anthony of the Sophomore Team goes up for a dunk against the Rookie Team during the Rookie Challenge, part of the 2005 NBA All-Star Weekend at the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado.[AFP]
Anthony, who has had a difficult second season, scored 17 of his points in the second half to lead the sophomores to a 133-106 comeback victory in the Rookie Challenge.

Chris Bosh of the Toronto Raptors added 26 points, the Philadelphia 76ers' Kyle Korver chipped in 21 and the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James added 20 for the sophomores, who trailed by as many as nine points late in the first half and 64-58 at the break.

The second-year players, who played somewhat lackadaisically in the first half, came out of intermission with a sense of purpose and took the lead for good, 70-67, on a jumper by James with 16:47 remaining.

Anthony, who was named the game's Most Valuable Player, made 13-of-18 shots for the Sophomores, who shot 56 percent (53-of-95), including 62 percent (32-of-52) in the second half.

Boston Celtics teammates Tony Allen and Al Jefferson and the Chicago Bulls' Luol Deng scored 17 points apiece to pace the Rookies, who shot 52 percent (46-of-88).

The Rookie game was just a warm-up for James, 20, who will be the second-youngest player ever to start an All-Star game when he takes the floor on Sunday.

Cleveland's phenom might have joined the slam-dunk contest as well, but with a sore ankle and a touch of flu decided not to risk it.

There was no missing the All-Star media day on Friday, however, where James was peppered with questions about a recent Sports Illustrated magazine cover asking if he might be the NBA's best-ever.

"I don't think anything about it. I'm just out there playing basketball and have fun and play my game," James said with a diplomacy beyond his years. "That stuff will take care of itself."

James's progress since he joined the NBA has helped put the Cavaliers in second in the Central Division, with the playoffs in their sights as long as he stays healthy.

"My energy is a little low right now, but everything is working out all right," said James, who briefly left the court in the Cavaliers loss to Minnesota on Thursday with what was called exhaution. James said he had in fact had a fever, but was now on the mend.

"I'm happy to be here. I'm not 100 percent energy-wise, but I'm feeling a lot better."

Like Kobe Bryant, who was 19 when fans voted him to start the 1998 All-Star Game, James came into the league as a high school prodigy.

While some NBA veterans admit that the glare of the All-Star game can get old, James said that he was delighted to be a part of the mid-season gala.

"It's a great feeling to know you have that many fans that respect the way you play the game," he said. "I'm going to have a good time and at the same time showcase my talents and have a good time with it."

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