David West finally said it once the series was over.
"This was our Game 7 even though we knew we had an extra one at home. We couldn't lose this game. I was just trying to keep guys confident. Ultimately, I wanted it to be on my shoulders. If we lost this game, I wanted it to be on me."
This was the moment so many had been waiting for throughout the season and through the playoffs. There had been glimpses of West stepping up, but never in full effect.
It was something he couldn't do too soon. He had to allow this team that weighs heavy on the basketball gifts of, as Tom Lewis of Indycornrows.com put it, "two 23-year olds and the mood swings of a 7'2" center" to find itself before he could step in and save them from themselves. But it seems West almost waited too long and nearly cost the Pacers a chance to improve on their ascent after last year's performance.
The moment he seemed to realize this came not in Game 6, as many think, but earlier. There was a 17-3 run during the end of the second quarter of Game 5 of the Wizards series that if we go back, will prove to be the moment when David West initially reached that point. He hit a corner 3 to end the half to stop the bleeding and walked off the court with the extreme opposite of a smile on his face.
The shot didn't turn the game around, didn't provide any sort of momentum or have any direct or indirect impact on the final results of the game. The Pacers simply got their ass kicked. But that shot did set in motion West's fed-upness of "if this is gonna get done," he was going to have to be the one to do it.
Tired of going through it all, tired of watching a team, again, his team, spiral away in epic inconsistency, tired of (probably) waiting for this team to snap out of it, West did what leaders do. Or are supposed to do.
What he has to continue to do.
Now is the "be mindful of what you ask for" moment. They face a wall with heroes waiting on the other side with two rings. A wall that, despite showing some cracks, will not crumble. The Miami Heat, having looked just as bad as the Pacers in the last month of the season -- and at times not much better than them during the second round of the playoffs -- are still the wall the Pacers have to climb over, crawl under, go around or break through. Again, the Heat will not beat themselves; the wall won't fall on its own.
Breaking through rests on David West's shoulders. Everything. The whole schizophrenic, enigmatic, too often narcissistic season already came down on him to rescue it in Game 6 against the Wizards. Now he has to stay in savior-mode for at least another seven games. He no longer has the luxury to pick and choose, and allow the Pacers room to figure "it" out. From this point forward, in order for his team to advance and get one step further on this mission than they did last year, West (not Paul George) needs to be more important to his team than LeBron James is to his. Can West do the one thing that no other player recently has been able to do?