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.
7. 2000 Second Round, Game 6
Date: May 19, 2000 Result: Pacers 106, Philadelphia 90/>
People tend to think of Reggie Miller's greatest playoff moments coming in New York City, where he often did the David slaying Goliath thing. But he also had some should-be-memorable ones in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly hate during sporting events.
In 2000, when the Pacers were on their way to their only NBA Finals appearance, they jumped to a 3-0 lead on the 76ers in the second round. The 76ers, who were a year away from going to the Finals, weren't about to be eliminated on their home court without a fight, though, and they nearly instigated a literal one.
Philly center Matt Geiger gave Miller two hard fouls in Game 4, the second one knocking him down on the baseline in the third quarter. Miller jumped up and threw an overhead swipe at Geiger that missed, setting off a scrum of bodies in need of separation. With Miller ejected, the 76ers went on to win the game. And with Miller suspended for Game 5 in Indianapolis, they won that one, too, 107-86.
The series didn't resume for four more days after that, so the Pacers – especially Miller – had plenty of time to reflect and regroup. They probably didn't need added motivation for Game 6, but they got it anyway. Stephen A. Smith penned a column in the Philadelphia Inquirer stating the Pacers were done. The 76ers had all the momentum, he wrote, and would win the series. Allen Iverson had pitched in as well, when asked after Game 5 if the Pacers would need a greater sense of urgency the next time out.
“They'd better,” he said. “Because our fans are going to be into it. We really feel like we have a shot – definitely – now. We really feel good about our chances.
“We'll bring our A game. For them to get out of there with a win, they'll definitely have to bring their A game. We're looking forward to it.”
So was Miller, master of the postseason A game.
As he paced back and forth in front of the Pacers bench before tip-off at First Union Center, a front-row Philly fan taunted him. “Can you be a hero tonight, Reggie?!” he shouted over and over. “Can you be a hero tonight?!”
Some fans held up signs devoted to Miller, who had dared don a Superman T-shirt for the final two games of the Pacers' first-round series with Milwaukee.
One read “Superwoman,” and had Miller's head imposed on a female body.
Another called him “Slapperman,” a reference to his punch at Geiger.
Still another read “Ear Ball,” and showed a caricature of Miller with oversized ears.
And, of course, there was the time-honored chant of “Reggie sucks!” during pre-game warmups.
Here's what happened: Miller scored 13 points in the first quarter, hitting 6-of-8 field goal attempts, and had nine more in the third, when the Pacers took a 16-point lead. He finished with 25 points, hitting 10-of-19 shots, and added six rebounds and just one turnover. The Pacers hit 51 percent from the field, outrebounded Philly for the first time in the series, 46-41, and won the game (and therefore the series), 106-90.
During a timeout with two minutes remaining, the outcome inevitable, the same fan who had taunted Miller before the game gave due credit.
“Hey, Reggie, good game!” he shouted. “You killed us, baby, you killed us!”
Philly's fans should have known better. Miller thrived in that type of setting, translating every insult as inspiration. The title of the guy's biography was “I Love Being the Enemy,” so what did they expect?
“I thought they were saying Reggie rocks!” he said, expressing mock shock at the postgame press conference when asked about 'Reggie sucks'” chants. “That's what they were saying?”
“This is the best atmosphere for me,” he said. “When you go into an environment like this and you have 20,000 to 25,000 people and all day they've been drinking and all day they've been making signs and all day they've been cursing your name frontwards and backwards so they can come here and taunt you ... this is the best for me.”
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.