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Young Pacers on verge of history

Jun 2, 2013, 1:02 AM EDT

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Six Getty Images

Larry Bird was the reigning MVP. David Robinson hadn’t yet been drafted. Julius Erving was still an active player.

That’s how long it’s been since a team as young as the 2012-13 Indiana Pacers made the NBA Finals.

Thanks to their 91-77 win over the Miami Heat tonight, the Pacers are only one win from becoming the youngest NBA finalist since the 1985-86 Houston Rockets. The 2010-11 Oklahoma City Thunder are the only younger team between to make even the conference finals.

With a starting lineup that now features Lance Stephenson (22), Paul George (23), Roy Hibbert (26) and George Hill (27), the Pacers have rapidly and steadily ascended up the NBA ladder. They lost 50 games in 2009-10, reached the first round in 2010-11, the second round in 2011-12 and the conference finals – and maybe further – this season.

David West (32) is the old hand of the group, but because he played four years at Xavier, he’s played only as many seasons as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

West was signed as a free agent, and the Pacers traded a draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard. Otherwise, Indiana’s top players have been drafted by the team or acquired via draft-day trades and then developed in-house.

Most remarkably, these players – and Danny Granger, who was a key piece of Indiana’s resurgence before injury – were drafted relatively low.

The Thunder have become recognized as the model for drafting and developing players, but the Pacers deserve a place in the discussion – maybe even ahead of Oklahoma City when it comes to the developing side. Just look where each team’s recent key players were drafted:

Developing talent is much easier when you start with a lot more talent.

But despite working with less-herald draft picks, the Pacers have groomed their players to reach levels Oklahoma City’s young stars never have.

George is averaging 21.0 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game against the Heat. Since 1985 (as far back as Basketball-Reference.com’s relevant records go), only LeBron James (twice) and Kobe Bryant (twice) have posted those totals in a Conference Finals or Finals at such a young age.

Hibbert, who’s averaging 22.8 points and 10.8 rebounds per game in this series, is matched during that span in age, scoring and rebounding in the Conference Finals or Finals by just Dwight Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan (twice) and Shaquille O’Neal.

For both George and Hibbert to be producing at these levels is astounding, but it speaks to how well and how quickly Indiana has developed.

Win or lose Monday, the Pacers have a bright future. But if they win, their present will be historically special.

  1. jamesmichaelworm - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:32 AM

    how bout history being on their side with injuries to melo,jr smith and chandler……….and now bosh and wade…….

    • arlingtonsynn - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:59 AM

      You are talking about a team that lost Granger to injury.

      • angulocarlos1 - Jun 2, 2013 at 2:47 AM

        Granger hasn’t played this whole year though, not really the same thing

      • erckle31 - Jun 2, 2013 at 3:20 AM

        Exactly, he hasn’t played the whole year. And despite that they’ve made it this far.

      • moseskkim - Jun 2, 2013 at 4:24 AM

        Was a blessing in disguise. The injury Led to Indiana throwing George in the fire and helped him develop exponentially. Don’t think they got out of the second round if they had a less developed George and healthy granger. Granger just isn’t an overall talent that George has become

      • money2long - Jun 2, 2013 at 5:08 AM

        let’s be clear on george. he put the work in heading into last season’s summer. he talked to brian shaw and asked him to want to be trained how kobe trains. paul george put in the work, and im not entirely sure granger would have stood in his way from blossoming. but the granger void certainly helped.

    • dnbajunkie - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      Basketball is a team sport, right now the Pacers are playing better as a team compared. The Heat made a big mistake in letting this series drag to game 7, by being so laid back and playing without any sense of urgency. They have just reinforced the Pacers belief that they could win this series, now the Pacers smells blood.

      • jacksonkane - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:37 PM

        Or the Heat are pretty injured and their small lineup is the perfect target for the size and rebounding of Indiana.

  2. professoressadiesel - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:38 AM

    Larry Legend did a great job assembling this team. Would love for him to come back to Indy.

  3. rickyspanish - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:41 AM

    jamesmichaelworm

    I agree for the most part, If the Rockets had upset the Thunder by coming back from 0-3, I wouldn’t have considered that to be the same if Westbrook didn’t get hurt. It’s still impressive, just not as much as it could be.

  4. 00maltliquor - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:59 AM

    I really, really wish the Pacers would win the series. I really do. But it ain’t happening. I see the Heat putting the smackdown in game 7. The Pacers winning next game would be just too good to be true.

  5. limonadamas - Jun 2, 2013 at 2:08 AM

    Come on everyone… who are we kidding? There’s no way that the NBA front office lets the Pacers into the finals over the Heat. How many warnings or fines for flopping did the league issue any Heat player during the regular season (versus how many offensive and defensive flops were actually executed by that team)?

    Watch for a lot of homecourt cooking on Monday. Once Lebron is allowed to get a full head of steam, he’s hard to stop.

    • angulocarlos1 - Jun 2, 2013 at 2:47 AM

      Already making excuses incase the heat win??

    • jacksonkane - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:42 PM

      Yeah the NBA rigs everything. The Spurs winning 4 championships in 9 years is definitely proof.

      They just hate small market teams make it to the finals. Indiana, Detroit, Orlando, OKC and Clevelend, San Antonio making it since 2000 (all small markets)

      /S

      • limonadamas - Jun 2, 2013 at 11:36 PM

        No, the NBA doesn’t rig “everything”…. but there are more than a few questionable, high-stakes games over the past few decades that raise a lot of suspicion. The last 4 games of the 2006 Finals, the 2002 WCF (which I acknowledge, as a Laker fan trying to be as objective as possible). Someone below mentioned the 1993 WCF with Barkley.

        No, I don’t believe that “everything” is rigged, but there’s way too much smoke to ignore. The players on the floor still have to execute, of course, but sometimes it just seems that the flow of the games are blatantly in favor of one team versus another. I’m not the first to point this out.

        With regard to the Spurs, they’re just an awesomely-run organization. They embraced foreign players and advanced metrics before practically anyone else. They develop young guys and have had a franchise anchor in Duncan all these years. Stern doesn’t necessarily have it out for particular small market teams. He’s always looking at the big picture (read: $$$). Miami’s technically “small market,” but big money.

  6. jzone954 - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:15 AM

    Yep. Bro the same pacers team we saw tonight will be there Monday night. And unless LeBron drops 50 were not winning. You telling me wade and Bosh are gonna just out of nowhere show up even a little? No. Indiana KNOWS they can win Monday night. They will , like ever game. Out rebound us by 20 and if LeBron doesn’t drop 50. It’s over

    • jagsfan13 - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:06 PM

      It’s going to be a good game either way, but even if Wade and Bosh “show up” for the game. you’re forgetting Miller, Allen, Hasleem, and Birdman will be back. The Heat are going to have the crowd and the intensity going into game 7. If the Pacers can play their type of game and control the tempo and finish quarters, you may see a Spurs/Pacers final. I’m a Pacers fan but I personally think game 7 is a toss-up.

      • johnnybooker - Jun 2, 2013 at 2:10 PM

        The only time I see the Heat crowd get into it is when the Heat are up or are on the verge of taking the lead via dunks…at least the lower section. Sometimes I can hear the crowd but I look at the first 30 rows and see most of the people sitting down. What a waste of good tickets. As a Pacers fan, it seems hard to fathom winning this game. Maybe the LJ 4 point play is still stuck in my craw…happy as hell at the growth of this team either way.

  7. MyNameIsWilliamBillForShort - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:48 AM

    I think Bosh will once again show why he is the most inconsistent “superstar” in history when he puts up big numbers in a win in game 7. I hate when people call them the “big 3″ when Bosh has never been consistent enough to deserve to be put in the same class as LeBron and Wade. I understand that the Indiana defense is stifling, but if you are the “superstar” that everyone makes you out to be, you consistently raise your game and at least score a few buckets a game, or if they take away your ability to score, you help out in other ways(get a few assists, grab double-digit rebounds because you out-hustle the other guys). And don’t give me “what about Wade” because right now, that dude is clearly playing at 50%. Bosh is 100% healthy and he can’t do anything against Indiana’s size. 1-8 with only 4 rebounds and ZERO assists? Come on. Bosh mailed in Game 6 in 31 minutes??? Absolutely pathetic.

    • jagsfan13 - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:12 PM

      Don’t forget that Bosh might have injured his ankle in game 5 when he came down hard on it, and it looked like he may have rolled it some. It might not be a serious injury, but it may still be bothering him some. I have no idea why I’m making excuses for the Heat seeing as how I’m a Pacers fan, just trying to be realistic.I think with Birdman being back in the middle that’s going to give Hibbert a few more problems than he had in last night’s win. If they can get Allen and/or Miller going from 3 point range, it should make for an interesting and exciting game 7. Personally I’d sit Wade for extended periods of time. Allen, Miller, Cole are all adding more offense than Wade is, and being as how he’s injured the excuse to play him can’t be made that he’s playing excellent defense either.

  8. offthelows - Jun 2, 2013 at 6:54 AM

    There was a similar game 7 conference finals situation back in 1993, when the 2 biggest stars in the NBA were MJ (by far) and then Charles Barkley of the Phoenix Suns.. So, to set up that dream finals for David Stern and the league, somehow the Suns managed a playoff record 64 free throw attempts! And there was no Shaq to hack, they shot 89%… they scored 57 points from the line and won by 13 vs Seattle.

    In the age of twitter and 24-hour sports talk radio and a much more intense media atmosphere, I can’t see LBJ and company going to the line 60+ times, but I will watch Monday with a very suspicious mind.

  9. jbeagles23 - Jun 2, 2013 at 8:47 AM

    I think mike miller is goin to help and not on offence. He is a great rebounder for his position. And yea he is sore but has three times the heart of wade Also lebron dropping 50 isn’t out of the question. When he walked on the floor at the end of the game lastnight and encouraged his teammates. He had that swagger like he knows what’s going to happen game 7

    • jagsfan13 - Jun 2, 2013 at 1:14 PM

      Miller rebounding? Not with Hibbert and West clogging up the middle. Hasleem has a better chance than Miller does

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:37 PM

      You better hope they don’t call a straight up game Beagles.
      Cause’ if they call it straight up like game #6 the Pacers are winning tonight.
      If the NBA = WWF…then it’s gonna be a looong night for the Indiana Pacers.
      Go Pacers!

  10. dgilet1 - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    Granger is injured as well and regardless of how long he was still the best talent they had last year. And the heat are lucky that the bulls were missing deng hinrich and rose

  11. ncm42 - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:17 AM

    “the Pacers traded a draft pick to the San Antonio Spurs for Kawhi Leonard”

    Ummmm…Kawhi is on the Spurs, isn’t he?

    • harrishawker - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:31 AM

      Yup, but I guess the spurs aren’t developing him. I mean if be we’re on the thunder being developed , he would be home watching the spurs right now. But since he’s being developed by the spurs….. All he is doing is playing for a ring.

      Damn them spurs!!!!

    • gostlcards5 - Jun 2, 2013 at 11:52 AM

      I think he means that the draft pick the Pacers traded was used for Leonard.

      • harrishawker - Jun 2, 2013 at 12:24 PM

        Kawahi was drafted by the pacers, but over the summer he was sent to the Spurs for George Hill.
        A #26 pick in the draft making an impact both in San Antonio and Indiana.
        Just sayin

      • gostlcards5 - Jun 3, 2013 at 2:57 PM

        That was my second guess. I couldn’t remember which way it happened.

  12. harrishawker - Jun 2, 2013 at 10:25 AM

    “The Thunder have become recognized as the model for drafting and developing players, but the Pacers deserve a place in the discussion – maybe even ahead of Oklahoma City when it comes to the developing side. Just look where each team’s recent key players were drafted:”

    My sides are splitting from all the BS!!
    The thunder? REALLY???
    So they were LUCKY enough to have Portland become the new Cleveland by selecting 60 year old Oden!!! And a few years later they had #4 and took Westbrook. I wouldn’t exactly call that developing players from the draft.

    How about Popovich?
    #57 pick Manu ginobili, yea he hasn’t made an impact in the league right.
    #28 pick tony Parker…. Finals MVP, he doesn’t count as a late round draft pick that has made an impact?
    I’m not even counting Tim Duncan!
    Danny green?
    Kawahi Leonard?!
    Pop hasn’t developed ANY of them either?!
    No, having high draft picks does NOT constitute a “model team for drafting and developing players”!
    Even if you ask coach Pop how he is such a great coach he will tell you, I got lucky and drafted Tim Duncan.
    If the thunder coach thinks he is a great coach, how come he hasn’t won a championship?!
    Tim Duncan was drafted in 1997 and had his first title in 1999, his second in 2003. Durant has been in the league for 6 years and has 1 finals appearance, a loss.
    To bad the thunder doesn’t develop championship winners!!
    FYI
    I’m not hating on the thunder. But if this writer thinks they are the model franchise for developing players, this is a reality check!

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