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Win or lose against Heat in Game 7, Pacers deserve recognition among NBA’s elite franchises of last 20 years

Jun 3, 2013, 5:22 PM EDT

Miami Heat v Indiana Pacers - Game Six Getty Images

When the Indiana Pacers hired Larry Brown in 1993, he said “I’d like to win an N.B.A. championship for the Indiana Pacers.”

Twenty years later, the Pacers are still searching for their first NBA title. (They won three in the ABA.) But they’ve still belong among the league’s most successful franchises. Here are the leaders in playoff series won since 1994:

1. Los Angeles Lakers, 34

2. San Antonio Spurs, 33

3. Miami Heat, 19

4. Chicago Bulls, 18

5. Indiana Pacers, 17

The Pacers are the only member of the top five without a championship in that span. In fact, the other four – Lakers (five), Spurs (four), Heat (two) and Bulls (three) – have each won multiple titles since 1994.

Indiana’s success is a different kind, an enduring level of quality that stands above good and below elite.

The Reggie Miller-Rik Smits Pacers – with support from players like Mark Jackson, Dale Davis, Antonio Davis, Chris Mullin and Jalen Rose – made back-to-back conference finals in 1994 and 1995 and then again in 1998 and 1999. In 2000, they took it a step further and reached the NBA Finals. That was the first title of a Lakers three-peat, but the East’s next two challengers didn’t combine for as many wins in the Finals as they Pacers had in 2000.

Reggie Miller was still around in 2004, when a group led by Jermaine O’Neal and Ron Artest won a franchise-best 61 games before falling to the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals. Those Pacers played the Pistons, who went on to win the NBA title, tougher than any team all season, giving Indiana a credible case as the league’s second-best team that year.

The Pacers started the next year 7-2 before the Malice at The Palace suspensions destroyed their season. Still, Rick Carlisle led a rag-tag group into the second round.

Now, a team that has completely turned over its roster is one game from reaching another NBA Finals. This time, Paul George and Roy Hibbert area leading a group that also features David West, George Hill and Lance Stephenson.

A couple common links unite these teams. Owner Herb Simon, who bought the franchise in 1983, has remained owner to this day. Donnie Walsh hired Larry Brown in 1993, and though Walsh left for the Knicks for a brief time, he’s back in charge of the Pacers.

A win over Miami in Game 7 tonight wouldn’t push the Pacers past any team in the above rankings, and a lack of a championship will prevent Indiana from winning any argument about the NBA’s best teams recently. But the Pacers deserve more credit as one of the best teams in the last 20 years.

  1. jamesmichaelworm - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:31 PM

    i respect rings…….that could also mean they are the biggest choke artists in last 20 years

    • stlouis1baseball - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

      You don’t respect anything.

    • erckle31 - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      Or something called Michael Jordan happened.

  2. 4thquartermagic - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    If Pacers overcome the Heat, the refs, and David Stern then yes, you may call them Elite.

    • reesesteel23 - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:49 PM

      We get it. Every win since the Big 3 got together (reg. season and playoffs combined) have been because of the refs and David Stern. A genius, you are

      • 4thquartermagic - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:06 PM

        Calm down, talking specifically THIS game.

    • casualcommenter - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:03 PM

      Free Throws Per Game,
      Miami Heat: 25 + 26 + 28 + 27 + 12 + 19 (137)
      Indiana Pacers: 32 + 32 + 44 + 33 + 15 + 18 (174)

      Net Difference: Indiana +37 (+6.2 per game)

      Also, both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James have fouled out in the fourth quarter of very close games.

      In my opinion, Indiana has earned most of those free throws because the undersized Heat have had to foul Pacer bigs in the paint.

      However, it’s childish to pretend that the referees have been BLATANTLY favoring the Heat when Indiana has earned more free throws than the Heat in 5 of 6 games so far.

      • 4thquartermagic - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:09 PM

        Again, talking specifically THIS game.

        You’d have to have not watched the NBA for the last 15 years to be naive enough to believe games with significant impacts on ratings don’t have fishy calls.

        Case and point, 2006 Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks.

  3. ajx007 - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:49 PM

    I have immense respect for this team. There toughness never waivers; nor does there resolve. I’m rooting for them, as I have since they fell in last years playoffs.

  4. caeser12 - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:53 PM

    So they should be considered elite, because they forced or won a game 7 against the “Now they’re not so infallible Heat?” I’m confused. One article says that the heat shouldn’t be viewed as this “Team of the Ages.” And this article says that, the Pacers should be considered ELITE because they have won some playoff SERIES. And we wonder why the sports public has become the way they are.

    • casualcommenter - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:07 PM

      You should learn how to read. Your internet experience would become much more fulfilling.

      The article never said the Pacers should be considered elite because they forced a game 7 in this series against the Heat.

      The argument of this article was that the Pacers’ argument for being elite was their consistent success in the playoffs over the past 20 years.

      Whether or not that argument is compelling is up for the debate, but that’s the argument. Nowhere in this article does it say that forcing game 7 by itself gave the Pacers’ a legitimate claim of being elite.

  5. cincyorangenblack - Jun 3, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    I hope Stern let’s the Pacers win tonight and have a shot at the title. Indiana’s fans are atleast passionate, knowledgable fans who grew up loving basketball. UNLIKE Miami’s fans in every way

  6. jamieaadams - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    They might be the new Utah Jazz, and I don’t mean that disrespectfully.

  7. chicitybulls - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:00 PM

    I get what you’re trying to do here (shining some spotlight on the Pacers organization) but why pick an arbitrary year like 1994? Wouldn’t going back to all time series wins or wins since the merger be a truer barometer of series success?

    • asimonetti88 - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:46 PM

      Well, if you go back to all-time series wins, you put a team like the Heat at a disadvantage. Love them or hate them (and I’m more of the latter), they’ve been a consistently good team, but they’ve only been around since 1989. You take all-time wins and they’re at a disadvantage. 1994 is not a bad year- it’s two decades of data, making it statistically significant enough, and past most of the expansion era- the Grizz and Raptors joined in mid-90s, the Bobcats in early 2000s. Most all teams are on an even footing with that span of data.

      • chicitybulls - Jun 3, 2013 at 7:03 PM

        I get your point but this wasn’t about the heat. I believe he was trying to bring light to the Pacers who have been in the league for a while. All time or since the merger would apply to them. Besides when the league talks about all time championships of the Celts and Lakers they go back all time. Not since 1980 or since 1984 or some other arbitrary year.

      • asimonetti88 - Jun 3, 2013 at 7:37 PM

        That was just my example, but it’d be the same for the Pacers. They’ve been in the NBA since 1976. The Warriors have been in the NBA since 1946. The Warriors likely have more all-time series wins, but it’d be pretty hard to argue they’ve been a more successful team over the last 20 years because of that.

  8. jzone954 - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:02 PM

    As a heat fan I can say ladies and gentlemen. PAUL GEORGE has landed. Much respect to the team.

  9. yousuxxors - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:08 PM

    wish the knicks never let Donnie Walsh leave

  10. stlouis1baseball - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:13 PM

    Good luck to the Indiana Pacers tonight as they take on the Miami Heat, the NBA front office, 3 referees, ABC and Lord Voldemort.

    Go Pacers!

  11. canehouse - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:30 PM

    4thqtrtragic… how can you specifically comment on a game that hasn’t occurred yet? I expect the calls to consistent tonight. It’s been a great series… both team are battling, although the national media narrative has the HEAT in crumble mode… tonight the HEAT play Championship Miami Heat ball!

  12. canehouse - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    furthermore the HEAT beat the Mavs in 6.

  13. jzone954 - Jun 3, 2013 at 6:31 PM

    (Steven A smith voice). “LEBROOON…..23 relished in these
    Moments….can you?”

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