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West, Scola Forming Lethal Tandem

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

November 7, 2013 | 1:05 a.m.

David West, between coughs and throat-clearing hacks, considered the question. Are he and Luis Scola carbon copies of one another? Two power forwards who can hit midrange jumpers past midnight, post up, and find open teammates?

“I don't know,” he said. “I think our approaches to the game may be similar. The attitudes may be different.”

How so?

“I'm nasty,” West said, allowing himself a modest smile.

OK. Give West that much. West is the kid from the streets of New Jersey who spent a year in a military academy after high school, while Scola is the South American who was brought up in the finesse-oriented style of international play. Still, their skill-set is amazingly similar. Just ask Paul George.

“They have the same style of game,” George said after the Pacers' 97-80 victory over Chicago Wednesday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. “They're aggressive defensively, and they do their job down low. They bruise defenders on the block and they're able to make the mid-range shot. That's a luxury to have.

“We've got the best tandem in the league, hands down. No matter the age.”

George laughed at that one, but he's got a point. West and Scola – both 33 years old – are indeed the old men in a locker room that otherwise qualifies as young, the guys who lift the Pacers' average age to the middle of the NBA. But they probably are the best tandem in the league. The Bulls would find it difficult to argue after what they witnessed on Wednesday. West, despite a head cold that also had plagued him in Detroit the previous night, put forth his first double-double of the season with 17 points and 13 rebounds, and added three impressive steals. Scola, in 15:43 off the bench, had his best game as a Pacers player with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

For those counting at home, that's 29 points, 16 rebounds, five steals (and two turnovers) in 47 minutes from a position that for many teams houses a role player.

Luxurious, indeed.

They have something else in common. Neither are going to start banging drums over the Pacers' 5-0 start, the best in the franchise's NBA history and one short of the best ABA start, in 1971. “

“We've fared well,” West said. “Just can't over-react to it. Can't feel we've accomplished anything. Even if we start 10 or 20-0, it still doesn't give you anything.”

Scola's take: “The fact we start 5-0 and create a little window between us and the other contenders, that's a great thing for us. We know it's early, we know it doesn't mean a lot, but we can only play five games to this point.”

West was the lone starter playing below his norm heading into Wednesday's game, shooting just 36 percent from the field. He hit just 3-of-10 shots in the first half, but 5-of-6 in the second, when he also had 10 of his rebounds and two of his steals. He played better, but surely not because he was feeling better judging by the sound of his voice in the locker room. He said he simply took a more aggressive approach to the game because of the caliber of the competition.

His steals were the most impressive part of his game. He deflected Derrick Rose's dribble in the second quarter, then fed Orlando Johnson for a breakaway layup. In the fourth, while the Pacers were busy outscoring Chicago 34-18, he hit a 20-foot shot from out front, then deflected the ball away again from Rose. Half a minute later, he deflected the ball from another Bulls guard, Kurt Hinrich, setting up Lance Stephenson's breakaway dunk that brought a 94-78 lead and forced a Bulls timeout with 1:51 left.

Guys the size of West aren't supposed to be so quick with their hands. His off-season boxing training helps, as does the emphasis the coaching staff places on deflections.

“We work on that,” he said. "(Assistant coach) Dan Burke beats us over the head with deflections and keeping your hands active. I'm one of those guys, I try to keep my nose on the ball, especially when it's late. (Rose) isn't giving the ball up in those situations, he's trying to be aggressive.”

Scola got a big steal midway through the final period, taking the ball from Luol Deng deep in the Bulls' halfcourt and dribbling all the way for a layup on the left side to give the Pacers a 74-69 lead. He received a standing ovation from most in the sellout audience – including Larry Bird – when West replaced him a minute-and-a-half later.

Scola, a starter throughout his six NBA seasons, is accustomed to filling up a box score. He has career highs of 44 points, 21 rebounds, 10 assists and five steals. This was the best Pacers fans have seen him play, so to fans in the Fieldhouse it felt like a grand entrance. To him, it was nothing special.

“I know it's a long season,” he said. “I've been playing for awhile. I know sooner or later people will realize what I can do. And what I can't do. I'm not worried about presenting myself. I just want to help us win.”

It would seem that West and Scola, tandem that they are, could play well together, given their versatility. The Pacers' backup center, Ian Mahinmi, has hit just one field goal all season, and was scoreless in 9 minutes, 45 seconds on Wednesday before leaving the game with a sprained ankle. Coach Frank Vogel indicated the time will come when he plays his power forwards together while Roy Hibbert is on the bench, but for now his emphasis is on having a rim protector in the game at all times. It's a difficult strategy to question given the fact the Pacers are the league's best defensive team, both visually and statistically.

Scola, though, believes he and West would play well together.

“I do,” he said. “I know. I don't feel, I know.”

On a team already loaded with weapons, there's one more for Vogel to consider.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.

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