Sacramento's DeMarcus Cousins had 33 points and 14 rebounds, Washington's John Wall racked up 22 assists to win the MVP award, and the rookies rallied to beat the sophomores, 148-140, Friday night in the NBA All-Star weekend's Rookie Challenge in Los Angeles.
Led by former University of Kentucky teammates Cousins and Wall, the newcomers won the lighthearted contest between the NBA’s best rookies and second-year players for the second straight year.
To the accompaniment of supersonic screams from thousands of children crammed into Staples Center’s lower bowl, both teams went through the usual array of alley-oops, breakaway jams and matador defense before the rookies pulled away in the final minutes.
No. 1 draft pick Wall scored 12 points while surpassing Chris Paul’s 2007 Rookie Challenge record of 17 assists, repeatedly setting up his fellow rookies for acrobatic dunks and wide-open jumpers.
The erstwhile Wildcats switched roles for the rookies’ final basket with 12.8 seconds left, with Cousins lofting a pass off the backboard for an electric two-handed dunk by Wall, who hung on the rim for emphasis.
“Coach told us to run a couple of plays, but we knew our team was going to push the ball, and I know (Cousins) can finish,” Wall said.
All-Star Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers bounced back from an elbow to the nose to score 14 points for the rookies.
In the final minutes of a tight game, the kids began chanting insistently for Griffin — “We want Blake!” – as rookies coach Kevin McHale egged them on. With a towel draped over his head, Griffin responded with a sheepish grin, but he sat out the final 12:25.
Oklahoma City’s James Harden scored 30 points for the sophomores, and San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair had 28 points and 15 rebounds.
LABOR MEETING HELD
Representatives from the NBA and the players’ association met for about two hours to discuss a new collective bargaining agreement. Neither group expected much progress because there were so many people at the session, including All-Stars LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony.