Heading into a pivotal Game 5 against the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers power forward David West had not been a big factor in the series. West broke out in a big way Wednesday night, scoring 24 points on 11-of-16 shooting and leading the Pacers to a 106-83 victory and a 3-2 series lead.
West really got things going in the second quarter when Josh Smith went to the bench with foul trouble, scoring 10 straight at one point and 12 overall for the quarter. That dominant stretch helped vault the Pacers to a seven-point halftime lead, and they would cruise the rest of the way.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said he talked to West on Tuesday and expected a big performance after their conversation.
"We're at our best when he's going like he was going," Vogel said. "We talked yesterday about how to get him some better looks. He kind of waved me off and said 'Don't worry about me, I'll be fine.' So I didn't have a lot of doubt that he was going to have a big game."
West himself noted that he wanted to be more assertive to set a better tone for the team after the two ugly losses on the road.
"I just wanted to come out and be aggressive," West said. "Take a couple of jump shots. We watched the film, and I hadn't taken many shots outside of 12 feet. I thought it got the guys going."
West's frontcourt mate Roy Hibbert also had a strong game, and it was Hibbert who got the Pacers off to a nice start. SB Nation's Drew Garrison talked before the game about Hibbert getting more touches, and Indiana made it a point to get the big man those touches. Hibbert had 10 points in the first quarter and 18 for the game, with 12 of those coming from the foul line.
Smith and Hawks coach Larry Drew both admitted that Atlanta did a poor job defending the post, noting that they did not make it difficult enough for the Pacers' bigs to catch the ball on the block. That adjustment will have to be made for Game 6, although the Hawks have shown the ability to defend well on their home court.
Quotes via NBA.com.