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Hidden Gems of the Pacers' Playoff History

by Mark Montieth |

April 15

Veteran Pacers fans remember the legendary playoff moments in the franchise's history. Such as the games that won championships in the ABA, Reggie Miller's moments in Madison Square Garden, or Travis Best's three-pointer that saved the final game of the first-round series with Milwaukee and sparked the trip to the NBA Finals in 2000.

Beneath the veneer of the obvious, though, there are equally impressive performances and equally dramatic games that would be remembered just as clearly if the timing had been more favorable – perhaps if they had come in the close-out game of a series, or in a later series, or, in the case of the ABA, in a modern media environment.

They are the Hidden Gems of the Pacers' playoff history. Here, in chronological order, are 10 games, or moments, that deserve to have the dust blown away so they can live again in our memories.

3. 1972 ABA Finals, Game 5

Date: May 18, 1972
Result: Pacers 100, New York 99/>

The Pacers won their second ABA title in 1972, defeating Rick Barry and the New York Nets 4-2. But you have to win a third game before you can win a fourth, and the third one was the most dramatic of the series. It also stands as one of the franchise's greatest homecourt playoff victories. Billy Keller vs New York

With the series tied 2-2, the Pacers, as had been their habit, came out tense before a sellout crowd on a Thursday night at the Coliseum. They hit just 5-of-22 field goal attempts in the first quarter, but that was a hot streak compared to their performance from the foul line in the second period when they hit just 1-of-11 free throws.

“Dearborn Gym would have put them in a D League,” the Star's game report said.

That particular brand of marksmanship helped dig a 40-20 deficit, which elicited boos from the home fans, a group that included race drivers Mario Andretti and Al Unser Sr. They got the deficit down to 15 by halftime, though, and rallied in the second half.

Billy Keller hit three straight three-pointers in the third period to tie the game at 60, and George McGinnis later hit another one to give the Pacers a 71-68 lead. The Nets, however, regained a four-point lead on Barry's two foul shots with 27 seconds left in the game. Keller kept the Pacers alive with a 30-foot three-pointer with 17 seconds left to make it a one-point game, and then Freddie Lewis came up with a series-saving defensive play.

George McGinnis

Defending the Nets' backup point guard Ollie Taylor – starter John Roche had left the game with an injury – Lewis slid to Taylor's right side and then quickly jumped back to his left as Taylor made his move. Lewis then batted the ball between Taylor's legs, retrieved it for his fifth steal of the game, and drove for a dunk at the other end. Taylor fouled him to prevent the basket, and Lewis hit both free throws to give the Pacers a 100-99 lead with nine seconds left – plenty of time for the Nets to get off a shot.

After a timeout, Tom Washington inbounded from midcourt to Barry, who had shaken loose from Roger Brown and was open for a 15-footer on the left baseline. Barry, however, looked to the basket too quickly and the ball slipped through his hands and out of bounds.

Barry, who would jump back to the NBA after the season, finished with 33 points, each of which was wasted by his turnover. Lewis and Keller each finished with 22 to lead the Pacers. Two nights later, they clinched their second title in New York, 108-105.

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Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.