David West missed shootaround in advance of Game 6 on Saturday due to suffering from an upper respiratory infection, but whether or not he would play was never in doubt.
His level of effectiveness was the only thing in question, and after a slow first half offensively where he was clearly struggling, West was big for his team in the second half. He had 10 points and six rebounds on 5-of-7 shooting in the final two periods, and made a key play down the stretch as Indiana was holding off a late Heat rally to finish with the win and force a Game 7 on Monday.
And he did it all with a fever of 103 degrees, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.
That’s an incredible accomplishment, but one his head coach Frank Vogel almost didn’t allow to happen. After West’s sluggish start, Vogel was about to yank him, possibly for good during the second quarter.
“That guy is all heart,” Vogel said of West’s performance. “And it’s contagious. I don’t really have the words for it, to be honest for you. His tank was on E from the time he came into this building this morning. Tried to get the fluids and everything going, so he could feel better tonight. It was evident once he got out there that he didn’t have anything in the tank. But he was just competing and giving all he had, and he was rebounding the basketball, even if he wasn’t making shots.
“I told him I got to get him out in the second quarter, near the end of the second quarter. I said, “I gotta get you out. You have nothing tonight.” He said, “No, leave me in. I’m all right. I’m good.” So we stayed with it. We wanted to get him a little more rest in the third quarter, but he looked like he came to life. So we left him in there.”
It turned out to be a very wise choice.
As the Heat made their furious run to cut what was once a 17-point third quarter lead down to four with just under six minutes remaining, West made one of the three key plays that kept Miami at bay and sealed the win for his team. After a three-pointer from Paul George pushed the lead back to seven, West followed his own missed shot to rip the rebound from Mike Miller, and followed it up with a two-handed slam to push the lead back to nine.
Paul George, who led the Pacers with 28 points, wasn’t expecting anything less.
“David West understands what’s at stake,” George said. “You can tell at times he wasn’t fully there. He was trying to fight through and give it his all. We very grateful to have a player like that. That’s just David West stepping up to the challenge. And we still went to him, because we know David West, we’ll take David West any day. Sick or healthy. He just gave us his all. Made some huge plays for us. The shots he knocked down really was in the clutch moments, and we needed those.
“That’s just the kind of player David West is.”