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West proves it's a small-ball world after all

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Posted: Monday February 14, 2000 04:44 AM

  Gary Payton didn't disappoint the hometown crowd with a key performance during a crucial part of the game. Jed Jacobsohn/Allsport

By Jennifer A. Cooper,

OAKLAND -- While many people are going to say that size won the 2000 All-Star Game for the West, there's a good argument to be made that the turning point came in the fourth quarter, when the West went small and the East went south.

That crucial run occurred with Rasheed Wallace and Chris Webber in as the big men for the West. Neither Dikembe Mutombo nor Alonzo Mourning could capitalize on the West's attempt at small-ball. They were on the sidelines with Kevin Garnett, Shaquille O'Neal and Tim Duncan.

This is how it went down: With 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter and the West leading 101-99, Michael Finley hit a 3-pointer off an assist from Gary Payton to extend the lead to five.

After an official timeout, Ray Allen came back on the court and experienced what had to be three of the worst minutes of his career. He missed a 3-pointer and a lay-up, turned the ball over three times and fouled Payton as the Sonics guard was attempting a trey. Payton made all three free throws.

Victorious Western Conference coach Phil Jackson didn't blame Allen, of course. He said his team's intensity on defense made the difference.

"We wanted to bring it home," Jackson said. "They made a good run in the third quarter. We had to come back and play a little bit."

But the East certainly did its share. In addition to Allen's woes, Allan Houston turned the ball over once and Reggie Miller missed a 3-point attempt. Without a true point guard and facing two of the league's best in Payton and John Stockton, the East's lack of ball-handlers had finally caught up with the team. By the next timeout, with seven minutes left in the game, the West's lead was 10 and the East had missed its chance to take advantage of the big boys' being on the bench.

That's probably what East coach Jeff Van Gundy was referring to when he said, "We had a couple of chances to get ahead. We couldn't get over the hump. We turned it over a couple of times on the break."

It was more than a couple of times, but who's counting?

Related information
Duncan, Shaq share MVP as West tops East
Shaq, Duncan equally impressive in MVP efforts's complete All-Star Game coverage
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