The Sixth Man: West powers Pacers
By John McMullen, NBA Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Indiana Pacers are on the brink of reaching the second round of the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2005.
In fact, the Pacers have three chances to jettison a reeling Orlando team playing without injured superstar Dwight Howard, starting with Tuesday night's Game 5 in Indianapolis.
For the most part, it's been an uneven ride for the Pacers, who blew a big fourth quarter lead on Saturday in Game 4 for the second time in their quarterfinals set with the Magic.
Indiana came back to win in overtime, however, thanks in large part to David West. The old-school power forward posted a game-high 26 points with 12 rebounds, as the Pacers held on for a 101-99 decision and a 3-1 series advantage over Orlando, despite squandering a 19-point fourth-quarter lead.
The Pacers have now won three straight since surrendering 11 unanswered points in the final minutes of Game 1 to suffer an 81-77 defeat.
"He was dominant, they had no answer for him," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said when talking about West. "He either scored or got doubled and found somebody for a 3-point shot. That's the vision we have for our power post offense. He was at his best."
When you think Pacers basketball these days, Danny Granger is the name most often mentioned with a few defaulting to ascending center Roy Hibbert, who made his first All-Star Game in February.
But, West has quickly turned into Indiana's best player. A former two-time All-Star in New Orleans, the veteran is the prototypical power forward who can push people around on the blocks thanks to his impressive strength.
He is averaging a double-double of 16.8 points and 10.0 rebounds against the Magic in the postseason and torturing the NBA's Most Improved Player, Ryan Anderson, a player who is the polar opposite of West.
Anderson, a 3-point specialist who usually stretches the floor for opposing defenses, has been unable to get going against West and the Pacers. The sharpshooter, who averaged 16.1 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc in the regular season, is down to 8.5 ppg in the playoffs with West hounding his every move.
Magic coach Stan Van Gundy surely knew that Anderson would have trouble checking West down low and that's proven to be the case. On the other hand, SVG certainly thought Anderson would give West fits at the offensive end by drawing him away from the basket and that's been anything but the case due to West's impressive athleticism and length.
"He's a great player," Anderson said. "He's got a lot of length. He's strong. He's a great player from that position."
The 7-foot-2 Hibbert was basically Indiana's lone interior presence during his first three seasons in the NBA, but West's arrival has freed the Georgetown product's ability to focus on defense and rebounding -- his two major strengths.
Hibbert has blocked 17 shots in the series, including a franchise playoff record of nine in Game 1 while also averaging 11.8 rebounds a game.
It's hard to imagine the Magic putting up much of a fight now, and the Pacers are set to match up with Miami, which currently sports a commanding 3-1 edge over New York in its first-round series.
Things aren't perfect in Indy. Surrendering those large fourth-quarter leads needs to be addressed. But with injuries decimating top-seed Chicago, the Pacers' pending series with the star-studded Heat could serve as Miami's biggest test before the NBA Finals.
Like most coaches, Vogel is trying to stay focused and in the moment for now.
"It would be a big step," the Pacers mentor said of making the second round of the playoffs. "We talked last year when we got into the playoffs that it was a big step for us to get back to the playoffs. And that this year our goal is to take an even bigger step. So (making the second round), that's definitely the goal."
With West on his side, it may be time for Vogel to start thinking bigger.
05/08 15:39:13 ET