While Duncan matched a career postseason low with five points, West erupted for a career-high 30 on Saturday night as the hosting New Orleans Hornets rallied for a 101-82 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in their Western Conferenece semifinals opener.
Serbia's Peja Stojakovic scored 22 points and MVP candidate Chris Paul added 17 and 13 assists for the second-seeded Hornets, who overcame an 11-point first-half deficit and improved to 4-0 at home in the postseason.
But they merely played supporting roles to West.
"I knew this was an important game for us," West said. "You've got to attack San Antonio. You can't let them be comfortable. I wanted to put as much pressure on them as possible."
"David West is the one that really, really hurt us tonight," Spurs guard and France native Tony Parker said.
Despite a slow start, West made 13-of-23 shots and grabbed nine rebounds. He sank mid-range jumpers, used both hands around the basket and also had a couple of forceful dunks as the Hornets ambushed the defending champions in the second half.
"We've been in that position where everyone is kind of waiting for the wheels to fall off of this thing, feeling like we are overachieving," West said. "But we're a hungry group of guys, we're going to go out and compete."
The wheels fell off for Duncan, who made just 1-of-9 shots and 3- of-6 free throws as he was bothered by the length and quickness of Hornets 7-1 centre Tyson Chandler and relentless double-teams. A three-time NBA Finals MVP, Duncan also scored five points vs. Portland on June 4, 1999.
"Things just didn't go my way," Duncan said. "I played badly, so credit them."
"Timmy had a rough night," said Parker, who tried to carry the offense with 23 points. "We need to do a better job to get him the ball and try to get him some shots."
Despite Duncan's struggles, the Spurs held a 49-45 halftime lead. But the Hornets scored on eight of their first nine possessions of the second half to take control of the game.
West was the catalyst, scoring 11 points in the third quarter, which ended with New Orleans holding a 74-66 lead. Paul, who also got off to a slow start, pushed the tempo in the final period, when the Hornets pulled away.
"I think we did a great job of sticking to our game plan," Paul said.
"Our aggression was good," West said. "We attacked them, not only offensively, but defensively."
In the second half, New Orleans outscored San Antonio, 56-33. The performance was reminiscent of its first-round series opener, when the Hornets stormed past the Dallas Mavericks.
"I thought in the second half, they just outplayed us and out- hustled us," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Chandler had 10 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks and Bonzi Wells scored eight of his 10 points in the fourth quarter for the second-seeded Hornets, who shot 50 per cent (43-of-86) and held a 50-34 advantage on the glass.
Argentina's Manu Ginobili scored 19 points and Bruce Bowen added 17 all in the first half - for San Antonio, which shot 41 per cent (29-of-71), including 12-of-31 from 3-point range.
Most of those came off the double-teaming of Duncan, but San Antonio made just three shots from the arc in the second half.
The third-seeded Spurs will try to draw even in Game Two at New Orleans on Monday.
Detroit 91, Orlando 72
At Detroit, the Pistons won their fourth straight playoff game overall and eighth in a row over the Magic as they shut down both superstar Dwight Howard and Orlando's perimetre game.
The quartet of Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Jason Maxiell and Theo Ratliff took turns harassing Howard, who managed just 12 points and eight rebounds after averaging 22.6 and 18.2 in Orlando's first-round series win over Toronto. He also bruised his thumb.
"Howard is a monster," Pistons coach Flip Saunders said. "He's a monster at the rim. He patrols the paint.
"I was expecting them to send four or five guys at me tonight," Howard said. "I just gotta play through it."
In addition, the Pistons used a zone to limit the Magic to a season-low two three-pointers in 15 attempts.
Orlando held a 46-45 lead early in the second half before Detroit put together a 19-3 run to take the lead for good. The Pistons limited the Magic to 30 points in the second half.
Chauncey Billups scored 19 points and Richard Hamilton added 17 for second-seeded Detroit, which had five players in double figures.
Turkey's Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis each had 18 points and seven boards for third-seeded Orlando, which has not beaten Detroit in a postseason game since April 2003.
The Magic will try to get even Monday at Detroit.