THE INDIANA Pacers have changed who they are, going to a different style in hopes of surviving the opening round of the playoffs. No matter what, they can always count on David West.
With the top-seeded Pacers poised for an early summer, West fearlessly led a 16-4 run to end the game, extending the season with a 95-88 victory over the Atlanta Hawks last night.
"He's our rock," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "There's no other way to put it."
Trailing 3-2 after losing at home for the second time in the best-of-seven series, Indiana was in big trouble when the Hawks pushed out to an 84-79 lead with just over 3 minutes remaining, cheered on by a raucous crowd that barely sat down in the second half.
But, for the fourth time in this back-and-forth affair, the road team won.
West seemed to make every big play down the stretch, scoring four straight points and forcing a huge turnover to begin the turnaround. He hit two more baskets in the final minute to wrap things up, finishing with 24 points.
Game 7 is tomorrow in Indianapolis.
"When a team is making runs like that, an eight seed trying to knock off a one seed in their building and the place is erupting on every play, we have a guy with the composure to settle everyone down," Vogel said.
Paul George also scored 24 points for the Pacers, making four straight free throws to help fend off a team that was trying to become only the sixth No. 8 seed to win a playoff series.
West came up big all over the court, also leading the Pacers with 11 rebounds and six assists, not to mention a couple of steals.
"I told the guys, 'If worse comes to worse, we've got to play park basketball,' " he said.
In another game:
* At Memphis, Kevin Durant scored 36 points to break out of a slump, and the Oklahoma City Thunder routed the Grizzlies, 104-84, to force a deciding seventh game in the first-round Western Conference series. Game 7 is tomorrow night in Oklahoma City.
* An attorney representing the woman Donald Sterling was talking to when he made racist remarks said yesterday that the hourlong conversation was taped by mutual agreement last September and provided to a friend for safekeeping, who then leaked it to TMZ.
V. Stiviano sent two snippets of the conversation, recorded in her Los Angeles duplex, to a friend who released them without her permission, lawyer Siamak Nehoray said. He would not identify the friend or elaborate on what prompted her to send the recordings. Nehoray said Stiviano, 31, only learned they would become public after TMZ contacted her. She was devastated, he said.
Meanwhile, the NBA owners' advisory/finance committee has held its first meeting about Sterling and is committed to ending his ownership of the Clippers "as expeditiously as possible."
* The Los Angeles Lakers say they're in no rush to hire their next head coach, but several names have popped into the discussion, including former Lakers guard Byron Scott and forward Kurt Rambis. College names also surfaced, including John Calipari, Kevin Ollie and Mike Krzyzewski.