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Pacers turning to West

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David West isn’t typically one to force the issue on offense. Unless he has to.

And even then, he doesn’t really force the issue. He simply makes the most of opportunities. Lately, he’s had many of them.

A reliable but not generally prolific scorer, West has emerged as an offensive force in recent weeks for the Indiana Pacers — a welcome emergence for a team whose leading scorer, Paul George, has battled inconsistency.

Indiana’s third-leading scorer on the season, West has averaged 19.1 points per game in the past 10 outings, well above his season average of 13.7. He scored a game-high 25 during Monday’s 119-80 rout of the visiting Denver Nuggets, and he has tallied 16 or more in eight of the past 10 games.

His high-water mark was a season-high 30 during a Feb. 4 win at Atlanta.

Moreover, the veteran power forward shot 56 percent from the field during the torrid 10-game stretch. His season average is 49 percent.

West, in his 11th NBA season and third with the Pacers, insists he isn’t doing anything different to elevate his production. He credits teammates for that.

“I’m just trying to focus and concentrate and get whatever the offense is giving me,” said West, a career 15.9 points-per-game scorer. “Guys are doing a good job. We’re moving the ball around.

“I’m just trying to make plays when they are there.”

West also is trying to make sure the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers (40-11) enter the All-Star break on a winning note.

Tonight is the final game before the break. With a win, the Pacers will enter it on a two-game winning streak. They have the NBA’s best record, have had it most of the season, and are determined to maintain it the rest of the way as they continue their bid for the East’s No. 1 playoff seed.

“The games are going to get tougher after the break; we know that,” West said. “We talked about finishing up strong before the break, but also we know we want to be running downhill the last few games of the season.

“We have to start preparing for that right now.”

George, who along with Roy Hibbert will play in Sunday’s All-Star Game, agrees because he, like his teammates, knows what happens when they take opponents for granted.

They discovered that the hard way Sunday night in Orlando, where they blew a 17-point lead and suffered a humbling 93-92 loss. The Magic (16-37) have the third-worst record in the NBA.

One night later, the Pacers performed like a championship-driven team that learned its lesson.

“We learned from what happened (Sunday), being up early on a team and not putting them away,” said George, who has scored 20 or more points only twice in the past six games; his season average is 22. “We didn’t want to let (Denver) get relaxed on our floor. We were hurt about the loss (in Orlando).

“At this point in the season, we need every win.”

Especially with the two-time defending league champion Miami Heat only a few games behind.

“We can’t just rely on how many points we’re up. We just have to keep playing,” said Lance Stephenson, who had 12 points and six rebounds against Denver. “(Letting up) came back to haunt us. The basketball gods punished us for that.

“Every time we’re up, we’ve got to keep playing hard and not worry about the score.”

West, the Pacers’ undisputed floor leader, is confident lack of focus won’t be a recurring issue moving forward.

“We made a lot of mistakes (Sunday), didn’t play the game the right way, and it cost us the game,” he said. “We’re in a fight for the top spot in the conference, and we can’t afford to give games away like we did. I thought we came out (Monday) with a different resolve. We wanted to make sure we got control of the game and put away.

“I just thought we played hard and stuck to the game plan.”

Another productive scoring night for West just happened to be part of the plan.

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