PHOENIX (AP) -As the All-Star Game tipped off, East coach Mike Brown spotted Celtics legend Bill Russell in a seat near the bench.
``It kind of hit me at the beginning of the game ... he was sitting right there,'' Brown said.
As the West drubbed the East 146-119 on Sunday night, Brown may have been tempted to send Russell in. Russell, who has the fourth-most rebounds in All-Star Game history, might have helped dent the West's superiority in the paint.
The West used its size to pile up a 51-38 advantage on the backboards. If he couldn't call on Russell, Brown certainly could have used 6-foot-10 Chris Bosh of Toronto, who was picked for the team but had to sit out with a knee injury.
``Their size advantage, anybody and everybody could tell was a big factor,'' Brown said.
The East could have erased that advantage if it had shot better. But the East made only 8-of-34 shots (23.5 percent) from beyond the arc.
Phoenix and Boston's Ray Allen also missed all three of his 3-point tries.
When its 3-point attempts wouldn't fall, the East struggled to penetrate the West's defense.
``I think on defense they played a zone, so we couldn't get to the rack,'' Howard said. ``It was tough for us to get into the paint. It seemed like they had Shaq, Yao and Amare (Stoudemire) and Tim (Duncan) and everybody in the paint loaded up.''
At times, the East looked like freshmen playing against the varsity. The East's only true center was 6-foot-11 Dwight Howard of Orlando.
``It was tough for a guy like Rashard (Lewis, at 6-foot-10) to be banging with Shaquille O'Neal,'' said Howard, who had 13 points and nine rebounds.
The East stars essentially served as props for the reunion of former Lakers teammates O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, who were named co-MVPs.
At least the East still has the reigning NBA champion Boston Celtics.
That was the only solace the Eastern Conference stars could take after this lopsided loss. Even though it's only an exhibition, the result reinforced the perception that the West is a stronger conference overall - except in the eyes of the East players.
``This game doesn't matter when it comes to that,'' Miami's Dwyane Wade said. ``What matters at the end of the day is who wins the championship. Is it going to be West or is it going to be East?
`They have strong teams, no question. We all know that. But our strong teams in the East are strong, and can compete with anybody.''
On this night, though, the East couldn't compete. The East bolted to an early 20-8 lead before the West roared back with a 19-0 run in the first quarter, and the East never led again.
``We started out of the gates very well when we had the first five out there,'' Brown said.
Brown didn't ride his starters - Howard, Wade, Cleveland's LeBron James, Boston's Kevin Garnett and Detroit's Allen Iverson - for very long. He wanted to spread the minutes around, and none of his first-teamers played more than 28 minutes.
James led the East with 20 points on 8-of-19 shooting from the floor. Wade had 18 points and five assists and Paul Pierce added 18 points off the bench.
The East had won three of the last four All-Star games, and it leads the all-time series 35-23.

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