INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - All David West wanted to do Monday night was get his team playing the right way.
He made sure of it.
West scored 25 points in less than 27 minutes and Roy Hibbert added 14 as the NBA’s top team dominated the middle and blew past short-handed Denver 119-80 for its most lopsided win this season.
“We played with the right attitude. We came out aggressively. We got off to a good start,” West said. “Tonight, we made a concentrated effort to get to the goal. No letdowns.”
For the Pacers (40-11), it was just another stepping stone victory.
They still have the league’s best record, best home mark (25-2) and best defense. They still lead two-time defending champion Miami, now by four games, in the Eastern Conference. They still have not lost back-to-back games since mid-December and have not lost three straight all season. They even padded their league-leading scoring differential.
And if Denver coach Brian Shaw is to be believed, they might have the best overall player in the league, too.
Shaw spent the previous two seasons working extensively to help George when he served as an Indiana assistant.
“Paul George is an All-Star starter, and I said this morning that he’s the best two-way player in the game - and that includes LeBron (James) and everyone else you include,” the Nuggets coach said after Indiana ended its five-game skid in this series.
The scariest part may be that the Pacers didn’t even need George to be at his best Monday night.
He finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four assists - numbers mitigated by the fact the Pacers were so far ahead after three quarters that coach Frank Vogel rested his starters the entire fourth quarter and didn’t play any of them more than 28½ minutes.
Did they ever.
West scored 21 of his points in the first half and finished 11 of 13 from the field, making his last nine shots. Not surprisingly, Indiana outscored Denver 58-36 in the paint. Hibbert finished with 12 rebounds on a night the Pacers had a 56-37 advantage.
That, combined with Denver’s depleted roster, was just too much for the Nuggets (24-26) to overcome.