David West

David West’s mid-range jumpers carry Pacers into conference-finals matchup with Miami Heat


Bradley Beal snatched the ball right from Roy Hibbert’s hands.

The Wizards guard dribbled to the other end and buried a 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, giving Washington its first lead since Thursday’s opening minutes. It looked like the type of sequence that defines a series.

On the next possession, David West made a mid-range jumper.

The Pacers looked weak, leaving Game 6 available for the taking, but the listless Wizards couldn’t seize it. Thanks to West scoring 29 points, Indiana led for all but 29 seconds of the final 44 minutes and finished off Washington, 93-80, in the six-game series.

The Pacers move onto their second straight Eastern Conference Finals, where they’ll face the Miami Heat in a postseason series for the third straight year.

“We’ve been talking about this series all year,” West said. “We’ve had a different path than they’ve had, but we’re here.”

Different is right.

The Heat needed nine games to win eight. The Pacers took 13 – and it weren’t for the Wizards’ lethargy, this series could have been headed toward a Game 7.

Indiana surprisingly easily built a 16-point lead early in the third quarter (on, you guessed it, a West mid-range jumper). For a long time, the Wizards didn’t show up, but they finally woke up.

John Wall got more aggressive, and that made everyone, especially Marcin Gortat, more effective.

There was just too much lousiness to overcome. Trevor Ariza (1-for-5 shooting, –24) looked particularly disjointed, and Washington’s bench shot just 4-for-15.

There was also too much West, who solidified Indiana’s offense on a night his teammates rarely looked in rhythm.

“I told them, ‘If you get in trouble, just find me at the top,’” said West, who took twice as many shots as his next closest teammate (Lance Stephenson, 13 shots for 17 points) and scored his most points in a playoff game in six years. “’I’m going to bring us home tonight.’”

Home will be much more welcoming for the Pacers than it was for Washington.

The Wizards won their most playoff games in 35 years, but it’s also still been that long since they won a home playoff game beyond the first round. Washington, which lost all three of its home games this series, was at least rewarded with an ovation in the final minute after receiving boos in Game 3.

Only time will tell whether this was a breakthrough season for a young and growing team or a subpar team taking advantage of a historically bad conference.

The Wizards seem likely to return a similar roster after surpassing their major goals, though the possibility of big turnover exists. Gortat, Ariza and coach Randy Wittman become free agents this summer.

For the Pacers, steadiness rules – even if they look incredibly unsteady in the process.  In fits and backward stumbles and forward steps, they keep trudging closer to their goal. The end is in sight, and Indiana was specifically designed to beat their next opponent.

Like a David West mid-range jumper, the Pacers aren’t a model of flashiness, but they’re working well enough. For now, at least.

Is DeMarcus Cousins MVP worthy? “It’s mine to grab”

DeMarcus Cousins

Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.

This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?

He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.

The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.

“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”

As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.

“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”

Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.

I think Cousins can help provide that.

I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.

PBT Extra bold prediction preview: Markieff Morris will be a happy Sun

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After a bumpy season where the he fought with Suns coaches, then a summer where he and his twin Marcus felt they were blindsided by a trade, Markieff Morris has been plenty vocal about his unhappiness in Phoenix. To the point it has cost him some serious cash.

So what should we expect from Markieff Morris’ upcoming season?

Relative calm, I tell Jenna Corrado of NBCSports in this latest edition of PBT Extra previewing the NBA season.

The reasons are twofold. First, he has to realize the Suns aren’t trading him anyway (especially not while he publicly demands a trade, lowering his trade value). Second, can you imagine how new locker room leader Tyson Chandler is going to react to that? Chandler was brought in to fill a leadership void in the locker room, and you can bet he will make his displeasure at such team-disrupting antics known.

Still not sure if that’s enough to get the Suns to the playoffs.