David West
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West's Triple-Double "Just Part of the Game"

by Mark Montieth | askmontieth@gmail.com

January 12, 2013

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Teamwork is found in the nuances of basketball. Such as how many dribbles a player takes on a fastbreak basket.

Lance Stephenson, for example, took a baseball pass from David West in the final minute of the Pacers' 96-88 victory over Charlotte Saturday, took one dribble and dunked the ball with 44.9 seconds left. Had he taken two, the pass likely wouldn't have counted as an assist and West would not have secured his first career triple-double.

"That's what teammates do," Stephenson said, fully aware of the significance of the moment.

West's triple-double on 14 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 10 assists was the highlight of an evening in which the Pacers struggled to avoid the embarrassment of losing to one of the NBA's worst teams and dulling the shine of their previous wins over Miami and New York.

Before this season, a Pacers player hadn't recorded a triple-double since Jermaine O'Neal finished with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 10 blocks against Toronto on Jan. 22, 2003. West's at first appeared to give them three this season, but it was learned after the game that the NBA had taken an assist away from George Hill's stat line against Philadelphia on Dec. 14. The Pacers had added a rebound to Hill's line after reviewing video immediately after that game, but the league's further review subtracted an assist, leaving him with 15 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. David West

Roy Hibbert had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocks against New Orleans on Nov. 21.

Detlef Schrempf is the Pacers' all-time leader in NBA triple-doubles with six.

West had all 10 of his assists over the final three quarters, understandable since you can't assist missed shots. The Pacers hit just 10-of-30 in the first period, with just one assist. He got the final two assists in the final 1:17, on a kickout to D.J. Augustin for a three-pointer and then on the long pass to Stephenson, who finished with a season-high 17 points.

He knew he was closing in on it, thanks to ball boy Rick Rowe, who shouted the news from the bench. West's teammates were standing in anticipation of the final two assists, and cheered when Stephenson converted the dunk.

True to his nature, West took it in stride.

"It's just a part of the game,” he said over and over to reporters in the locker room. “It's not a big deal. I didn't go hunt it, it was just the flow of the game. That's the best way to beat teams like Charlotte. They're scrappy and they junk it up (on defense), so you hit them with the extra pass.”

With Paul George sitting out the game with a flu virus, and with Charlotte playing a lot of zone defense, which had been effective in its win over the Pacers on Nov. 2, West had plenty of passing opportunities. He would catch the ball near the foul line, hold it out in his giant right hand and look for cutting teammates as the defense rotated toward him.

All three of his assists in the second quarter set up three-pointers. All three of his assists in the third quarter led to layups or dunks. His fourth-quarter assists got a layup for Stephenson, three pointers for Hill and Augustin and the final dunk for Stephenson.

George's absence was most noticeable defensively. The Pacers had held Miami and New York to season-low point totals earlier in the week, both below 80, but allowed Charlotte 88 – still nearly eight below its average.

The Pacers still scored five points above their average, though, despite the loss of their leading scorer. Hill, recovered from last week's flu virus, finished with 19, Augustin matched his season-high with 18 and Stephenson had a season-high 17.

The ending was a counterpoint to the beginning, in which the Pacers fell behind 8-0 and 10-1. New acquisition Dominic McGuire started in George's place, because Vogel thought he matched up better with Charlotte starter Michael Kidd-Gilchrist than with its reserves. The new look seemed to discombobulate the Pacers, although McGuire can hardly be blamed for Hibbert missing a tip at the rim, Stephenson missing a layup, Hill air-balling a three-pointer, Hibbert missing another tip and West missing a put-back before they managed to score a point.

The game ended well, however, and so did the week. The Pacers have won 10 straight home games and 13 of their past 16 overall, and are just a half-game back of New York in second place in the Eastern Conference. They might need those victories as they head out for seven of their next eight on the road, starting tonight in Brooklyn.

They'll try to take that in stride as well.

"We just have to be professional," West said. "We have to let this game go and look forward to the challenge ahead."

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