The Indiana Pacers joined the NBA for the 1976-77
season as one of four former American Basketball Association
franchises to cross over when the two leagues merged. The
three-time ABA champions struggled from the beginning in the NBA,
posting only one winning season in their first 13 NBA campaigns.
After a decade and a half of failure, the team finally began to
play .500 ball in the early 1990s. By mid-decade, the Pacers had
become one of the Eastern Conference's top clubs. From 1994-2000, they reached the conference finals five times, won two Central Division titles and advanced to the NBA Finals in 2000.
When the Pacers began play in the ABA's inaugural 1967-68
season, they had already been preceded by two Indianapolis NBA
teams. In 1948-49 the Indianapolis Jets had compiled an 18-42
record in their only year of existence. The next year the
Indianapolis Olympians began play, winning the NBA's Western
Division with a 39-25 record. The Olympians folded in 1953 after
The state of Indiana has long been a bastion of basketball
fandom. There is great support for high school teams and for the
Indiana University Hoosiers, especially after their success in the
1970s and 1980s under Coach Bob Knight. Naturally, professional
leagues coveted the Indiana market. So when eight businessmen
invested a few thousand dollars apiece, the Indiana Pacers
franchise began in 1967 as a charter member of the ABA.
(529) Bobby "Slick" Leonard
Season W L % Playoffs 2009-10 32 50 .390 --- 2008-09 36 46 .439 --- 2007-08 36 46 .439 --- 2006-07 35 47 .429 --- 2005-06 41 41 .500 2-4 2004-05 44 38 .537 6-7 2003-04 61 21 .744 10-6 2002-03 48 34 .585 2-4 2001-02 42 40 .512 2-3 2000-01 41 41 .500 1-3 1999-00 56 26 .683 13-10 1998-99 33 17 .660 9-4 1997-98 58 24 .707 10-6 1996-97 39 43 .476 --- 1995-96 52 30 .634 2-3 1994-95 52 30 .634 0-7 1993-94 47 35 .573 10-6 1992-93 41 41 .500 1-3 1991-92 40 42 .488 0-3 1990-91 41 41 .500 2-3 1989-90 42 40 .512 0-3 1988-89 28 54 .341 --- 1987-88 38 44 .463 --- 1986-87 41 41 .500 1-3 1985-86 26 56 .317 --- 1984-85 22 60 .268 --- 1983-84 26 56 .317 --- 1982-83 20 62 .244 --- 1981-82 35 47 .427 --- 1980-81 44 38 .537 0-2 1979-80 37 45 .451 --- 1978-79 38 44 .463 --- 1977-78 31 51 .378 --- 1976-77 36 46 .439 ---
1975-76 39 45 .464 1-2 1974-75 45 39 .536 9-9 1973-74 46 38 .548 7-7 1972-73 51 33 .607 12-6* 1971-72 47 37 .560 12-8* 1970-71 58 26 .690 7-4 1969-70 59 25 .702 12-3* 1968-69 44 34 .564 9-8 1967-68 38 40 .487 0-3
1967-71: Brown And Daniels: The Pacers' First Stars
The first player signed by the Pacers was Roger Brown,
who was plucked out of a factory where he was working. Brown became
one of the most storied players ever to wear a Pacers uniform.
After an initial losing season, Indiana ran off seven
consecutive winning campaigns under Coach Bob Leonard. In 1968-69,
the first of his 12 seasons at the helm, Leonard guided the team to
a 44-34 mark. That year's Pacers team scored at a frantic pace,
averaging 119.6 points, a franchise record that still stands.
Indiana was loaded with talent, most notably second-year center
Mel Daniels, who averaged 24.0 points and 16.5 rebounds and was
named the ABA Most Valuable Player. The 6-9, 225-pound Daniels had
played the previous season for the Minnesota Muskies, a franchise
that was relocating to Miami. The Muskies sent him to Indiana for
$125,000 and two players - Jimmy Dawson and Ron Kozlicki-who would
never play professionally again.
The Pacers struggled at the beginning of the 1968-69 season,
winning only 5 of their first 20 games. But they turned it around,
won the Eastern Division title, and beat the Kentucky Colonels and
Miami Floridians in the playoffs to reach the ABA Finals. The
Oakland Oaks defeated Indiana, four games to one, for the
The momentum carried over into the 1969-70 season. Indiana ran
to a 59-25 record, raining down points. In an April 12 game against
the Pittsburgh Pipers, the Pacers scored an all-time ABA best 177
points. They finished in first place in the ABA Eastern Division,
defeated the Carolina Cougars and Kentucky in the first two playoff
rounds, then overpowered the Los Angeles Stars in the ABA Finals,
four games to two. Roger Brown threw in 45 points, including 7
three-pointers, in the decisive Game 6.
For the season, Brown led the team in scoring with a career-best
23.0 points per game. Daniels boosted his rebounding average to
17.6 boards per game and was an All-ABA Second Team selection. Some
25 years later he would still be Indiana's all-time leader in
career scoring average (19.5 ppg) and rebounding average (15.9
A realignment of ABA franchises before the next season landed
the Pacers in the Western Division. The 1970-71 team finished 58-26
and won the division but was eliminated in the playoffs by the Utah
Stars. Once again it was a high-scoring outfit, pumping in 119.1
points per game, the second-highest average in franchise history.
Daniels contributed 21.0 points per game, grabbed 18.0 rebounds per
contest (a Pacers all-time best), and won a second ABA MVP Award.
He was joined on the All-ABA First Team by Brown.
1971-74: McGinnis Gives Pacers Another Weapon
The 1971-72 team's 47-37 record wasn't quite as
sterling, but the Pacers still had what it took to claim a second
ABA title. Standout rookie George McGinnis, who had left Indiana
University after his sophomore season, was added to an already
potent lineup. Daniels pulled down a team-record 26 defensive
rebounds in a December 29 game against the Floridians. The
playoffs, however, were a challenge. Indiana defeated the Denver
Rockets and Utah in back-to-back seven-game sets, then downed the
Rick Barry-led New York Nets in six games for the title.
The Pacers repeated as ABA champions in 1972-73. Their 51-33
regular-season record included an 11-game winning streak. Indiana
finished second to the Utah Stars in the Western Division but
prevailed once again in the playoffs, besting Kentucky in a
seven-game ABA Finals series. McGinnis won the series MVP Award,
capping a standout season. He averaged 27.6 points during the
regular season and set the Pacers' all-time single-game scoring
mark with 58 points on November 28 against the Dallas
Indiana began to slip after those glory seasons. The 1973-74
team logged a solid 46-38 record but fell in the playoffs to Utah.
McGinnis continued to dominate. In a January 12 game against the
Carolina Cougars he snatched a team-record 37 rebounds, eclipsing
Mel Daniels's previous single-game mark of 31 set in 1969.
1974-76: Club Moves To Market Square Arena
The 1974-75 squad began play in the 16,530-seat Market
Square Arena. In their first appearance in the new building, on
October 18, the Pacers fell to the San Antonio Spurs, 129-121, in
double overtime. The first Pacers victory in their new home came on
October 23, when Indiana dumped the Spirits of St. Louis, 122-107.
Indiana finished the year at 45-39 and in third place in the
Western Division. After a gritty playoff run the Pacers appeared in
the ABA Finals for the fifth time in the league's eight-year
history. The Kentucky Colonels and Dan Issel proved to be too
strong, however, and won the title in five games.
Prior to the season the Pacers had traded Mel Daniels and
Freddie Lewis to the Memphis Sounds in exchange for Charlie Edge
and cash. George McGinnis shouldered the extra burden, scoring a
Pacers all-time best 29.8 points per game and sharing the ABA Most
Valuable Player Award with the New York Nets' Julius Erving.
Newcomer Billy Knight, who would become the club's all-time scoring
leader with 10,780 points by the end of his career (a mark later
surpassed by Reggie Miller), was picked for the ABA All-Rookie
By 1975-76 the Pacers had fallen off the pace. Knight led the
team in scoring, with 28.1 points per game, and Len Elmore set a
team mark for blocked shots with 178. Long-distance marksman Billy
Keller, in his last of seven Pacers seasons, threw in 123
three-pointers, a record that would stand until Miller surpassed it
in the early 1990s. Guard Don Buse set a team record and led the
league with 346 steals (4.12 per game). Despite these individual
accomplishments, Indiana closed out the ABA's final season with a
1976: Indiana's Three Retired Uniforms
The ABA years not only resulted in the best won-lost
record in the team's annals but also produced many of the greatest
players in Pacers history. Three standouts-George McGinnis, Mel
Daniels, and Roger Brown-eventually had their uniform numbers
retired by the franchise.
McGinnis played seven seasons with Indiana, from 1971 to 1975
and from 1980 to 1982. A 6-8, 235-pound forward, he shared 1975 ABA
Most Valuable Player honors with Julius Erving. A two-time All-ABA
First Team selection, he finished his career as the third-leading
scorer in Indiana history. McGinnis holds team records for points
in a game, with 58, and for rebounds in a game, with 37. He was a
career 20-point scorer (combining his ABA and NBA
Daniels, a 6-9, 225-pound center, played six seasons with the
Pacers. He was twice named ABA Most Valuable Player and was a
four-time All-ABA selection. Daniels averaged 19.5 points and 15.9
rebounds during his tenure with the franchise.
Brown, the Pacers' first player, spent eight years with the
club, consistently averaging in double figures. The 6-5 Brown
finished his career as Indiana's second-leading career scorer, and
he had the third-highest-scoring night in franchise history with 53
1976-77: What Kind Of Welcoming Party Is This?
After the Pacers joined the NBA (along with the Denver
Nuggets, the New York Nets, and the San Antonio Spurs), all of
their ABA achievements became nostalgia. Playing in the NBA proved
to be a rude awakening. The team that had been a dominant force in
the ABA found itself struggling as an also-ran in its new
The 1976-77 Pacers team received a sobering introduction to NBA
competition, courtesy of the Boston Celtics. The Pacers pushed the
Celtics into overtime before losing, 129-122. After three losses
Indiana posted four wins, then six losses, then four more wins. The
Pacers weren't terrific, but they were seldom embarrassed. One
exception took place on March 19 when they suffered the worst
defeat in franchise history, a 59-point, 150-91 pasting at the
hands of the Golden State Warriors. The Pacers' up-and-down pattern
held throughout the season, and they ended up with a 36-46
Billy Knight was stellar, hitting 831 field goals to lead the
team in scoring with 26.6 points per game. John Williamson also
averaged better than 20 points. Guard Don Buse set a club record by
averaging 8.5 assists. Knight and Buse represented Indiana in the
1977 NBA All-Star Game.
1977-80: A Ton Of Transactions
Before the 1977-78 campaign the Pacers traded away
their two All-Stars from the previous season. Knight went to the
Buffalo Braves in exchange for Adrian Dantley and Mike Bantom. Buse
was sent to the Phoenix Suns for Ricky Sobers.
The 1977-78 team slid to 31-51, including a 2-15 stretch
beginning in mid-January. Dantley was averaging 26.5 points when he
was traded with Dave Robisch to the Los Angeles Lakers in December
for James Edwards, Earl Tatum, and cash. John Williamson, the
team's No. 2 scorer with 19.1 points per game, was traded to the
New Jersey Nets in January for Bob Carrington, who was out of the
league the next season. Of the players who remained with the team,
Ricky Sobers was the top scorer, with 18.2 points per game. Five
other Pacers also averaged in double figures. Dan Roundfield
emerged as a rugged rebounder, pulling down 802 boards for a 10.2
In 1978-79 slight improvement elevated the team's record to
38-44. The Pacers' lineup continued to change, as Roundfield
departed to the Atlanta Hawks via free agency and Billy Knight, by
then in Boston, was brought back at midseason in exchange for Rick
Robey. Johnny Davis, a 6-1 guard, led the team in scoring with 18.3
points per game. Sobers, Edwards, Alex English, Bantom, and Knight
all averaged 14.7 points or better. At the end of the season
California millionaire Sam Nassi purchased the Pacers.
The following season Indiana struggled to a 37-45 mark. The
1979-80 Pacers tried to recapture some of their former glory by
acquiring George McGinnis from Denver for English and a first-round
draft pick. But McGinnis's career was nearly over (he would play
two more seasons), while English's was just starting-at Denver he
would become one of the greatest offensive players of the era.
1980-83: A Reversal Of Fortunes
In 1980-81 Indiana's fortunes turned around. Jack
McKinney replaced Bob Leonard as coach, marking the first of many
coaching changes over the coming decade. The immediate results were
good, however, and the Pacers' 44-38 record was the franchise's
first winning mark since joining the NBA. The team got off to a
strong 7-3 start and maintained momentum throughout the season,
boosted by a seven-game winning streak in January. Rewarded with
their first trip to the NBA Playoffs, the Pacers surrendered meekly
to the Philadelphia 76ers in two straight games. Still, things
seemed to be moving in a positive direction.
The Pacers' roster recalled the team's winning past. Billy
Knight led the club in scoring, George McGinnis had returned, and
Don Buse was back as a role player. But although the names were the
same, their performances weren't. Steadier contributors included
James Edwards, Johnny Davis, Mike Bantom, Louis Orr, Dudley
Bradley, and Clemon Johnson, all of whom saw action nightly as
Coach McKinney shuffled the lineup to find a winning combination.
For his success, McKinney was named NBA Coach of the Year.
All of the promise of the previous season dissipated in 1981-82
as the Pacers fell to 35-47. The team played well early in the
season but skidded through a 4-15 patch in January and February and
a 6-15 stretch to close out the year. Indiana scored only 102.2
points per contest, second fewest in the NBA. The silver lining was
Herb Williams, a rookie out of Ohio State who grabbed 605 rebounds,
the first of six seasons with 500-plus boards.
The Pacers were beginning a lengthy residency in the Central
Division basement. Their 20-62 record for 1982-83 was the worst in
team history. Only twice during the season was Indiana able to win
two games in a row. The Pacers floundered to a 6-33 record over the
last three months of the year, including a 12-game losing streak in
February and March. Not surprisingly, they drew their all-time
smallest crowd during the skid-2,745 fans for a game against the
Chicago Bulls on February 16.
1983-84: Kellogg Is Super, But Pacers Struggle
Newcomer Clark Kellogg, a 6-7 227-pounder and the
Pacers' second consecutive draft pick out of Ohio State, was
sensational, leading the squad in scoring (20.1 ppg) and rebounding
(10.6 rpg). He made the NBA All-Rookie Team but lost out in Rookie
of the Year voting to the San Diego Clippers' Terry Cummings. The
Pacers also received strong contributions from Billy Knight (17.1
ppg) and Williams (16.9 ppg, 171 blocked shots).
The Pacers careened directionless through 1983-84, ending the
year at 26-56. Kellogg and Williams provided courageous
performances, but the rest of the team simply lacked the talent to
be competitive. Center Steve Stipanovich, a 7-foot, 250-pound
rookie out of Missouri, averaged 12.0 points and 6.9 rebounds and
made the NBA All-Rookie Team.
1984-87: Franchise Sold To Simon Brothers
In 1983 Sam Nassi, who had owned the team since 1979,
sold the Pacers to shopping center moguls Melvin and Herbert Simon.
Jack McKinney was released from his contract after the 1983-84
season, and one of his assistants, George Irvine, was promoted to
the head coaching position. Irvine had played six ABA seasons with
the Virginia Squires and the Denver Nuggets, but he didn't have the
answers for the Pacers in 1984-85. They went 3-21 during the final
two months of the schedule, including a team record-tying 12-game
losing streak, and finished at 22-60.
Once again Kellogg (18.6 ppg, 9.4 rpg) and Williams (18.3 ppg,
8.5 rpg) were Indiana's top scorers and rebounders. But they began
to get help from 6-5 guard Vern Fleming, a lightning-quick rookie
out of Georgia who contributed 14.1 points per game. Although the
results weren't reflected in the win column, the Pacers were
putting together the nucleus of a better team.
In 1985-86 Oklahoma forward Wayman Tisdale came aboard as the
second selection overall in the 1985 NBA Draft. Williams, Kellogg,
Tisdale, Fleming, and Stipanovich were all good players, but they
weren't superstars. The result was a 26-56 record.
After a 10-year coaching reign in Portland, Jack Ramsay took
over as the Pacers' coach prior to the 1986-87 season and
engineered a dramatic turnaround, culminating in Indiana's first
playoff appearance since 1981. The team got off to a fast start,
winning 6 of its first 10 games; it held steady through the season,
then finished strong, with 10 victories in the final 16 games. The
Pacers faced the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of the playoffs.
After dropping the first two contests, Indiana claimed its first
NBA Playoff victory, 96-87, before losing the next game and
1987-88: Reggie And "The Rifleman"
Newcomers Chuck "the Rifleman" Person, a rookie, and
John Long, who had come to the Pacers after eight seasons with the
Detroit Pistons, were the team's scoring leaders. Person, a 6-8
225-pounder out of Auburn, led the team in scoring with 18.8 points
per game and was named NBA Rookie of the Year. Williams, Tisdale,
Stipanovich, and Fleming all provided double-figure scoring
With the 11th overall pick in the 1987 NBA Draft, Indiana chose
scoring machine Reggie Miller, a 6-7 guard from UCLA. Miller came
from an athletic family: his sister, Cheryl, was once considered
the dominant player in women's college basketball, and his brother,
Darrell, had been a catcher in Major League Baseball. Reggie Miller
had both a delicate shooting touch and a tough competitive nature,
and he became one of the league's top offensive threats.
The 1987-88 Pacers finished at 38-44 and out of the playoffs
once again. Miller played sparingly as a rookie, backing up Long
and averaging 10.0 points. Person led the team in scoring for a
second consecutive season with 17.0 points per game, followed
closely by Tisdale with 16.1.
1988-89: Pacers Draft "The Dunking Dutchman"
Indiana owned the second pick overall in the 1988 NBA
Draft and added a huge building block in more ways than one. The
Pacers selected Marist's 7-4 center Rik Smits, who would develop
into one of the league's toughest matchups in the pivot. The
1988-89 season got off to a disastrous start as Indiana lost its
first seven games and Jack Ramsay stepped down, ending a Hall of
Fame coaching career that spanned 21 seasons and 864 victories. Mel
Daniels and George Irvine filled in until the Pacers named Dick
Versace as Ramsay's replacement. By the time things settled down
the Pacers stood at 6-23. They never recovered.
In February the Pacers made two personnel moves. First they
traded Wayman Tisdale and a draft pick to the Sacramento Kings for
LaSalle Thompson and Randy Wittman. Then they sent Herb Williams to
the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for Detlef Schrempf and a
second-round draft choice.
The team finished at 28-54, and for the sixth time in seven
years the Pacers were last in the Central Division. Williams
corralled 29 rebounds against Denver on January 23, the highest
Pacers total since the days of George McGinnis. Smits, "the Dunking
Dutchman" from Eindhoven, Holland, scored 11.7 points per game,
grabbed 6.1 rebounds per outing, ranked 10th in the league in
blocked shots, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie First Team.
1989-90: Miller Named To All-Star Team
The 1989-90 Indiana team started fast, at 19-9, and
ended at 42-40. Reggie Miller's average of 24.6 points per game was
the club's highest mark since Billy Knight's 26.6 in 1976-77.
Miller made the All-Star Team, becoming the first Pacers player to
perform in the midseason classic in 13 years. He set a team record
with 150 three-pointers, smashing Billy Keller's mark of 123 set in
Chuck Person averaged 19.7 points, and Detlef Schrempf added
16.2 points per outing. Schrempf, a native of Germany, had learned
basketball as a teen and had played college ball at the University
of Washington. After entering the NBA with Dallas in 1985-86, he
labored in obscurity for three-plus seasons before blossoming in
Indiana. A 6-10 forward, Schrempf possessed an impressive
repertoire of ballhandling and passing skills for a player his
Back in the playoffs in 1990, the Pacers ran into the Detroit
Pistons, who were on their way to a second consecutive NBA
championship. Detroit disposed of Indiana in three straight
1990-92: Celtics Do In Pacers, Not Once But Twice
Bob Hill replaced Head Coach Dick Versace 25 games into
the 1990-91 campaign. After a sputtering start Indiana finished
strong, going 30-23 over the final four months of the season to
close out at 41-41.
Miller set a new club mark for free throw accuracy, making good
on 91.8 percent of his charity tosses. Schrempf won the NBA Sixth
Man Award after contributing 16.1 points, 8.0 rebounds, and 3.7
assists per game off the bench. Miller (22.6 ppg), Person (18.4),
and Schrempf were again the team's leading scorers. Vern Fleming
chalked up 18 assists in a November 23 game against the Houston
Rockets, the top single-game mark since the Pacers had joined the
The Pacers extended the Boston Celtics to five games in a
first-round playoff series made memorable by the antics of Person.
The cocky forward taunted his more accomplished counterparts
throughout the series and backed up his words with 26.0 points per
game, including a 17-for-31 performance from three-point range.
Indiana also received strong postseason performances from Schrempf
(15.8 ppg) and Miller (22.6), but it wasn't enough to prevent a
124-121 Celtics victory in Game 5.
The 1991-92 Pacers team went 40-42. Four-year veteran Micheal
Williams assumed the starting point guard duties and averaged 8.2
assists, the best Pacers mark since Don Buse's 8.5 in 1976-77.
Schrempf (17.3 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 3.9 apg) won his second consecutive
NBA Sixth Man Award. The Pacers met Boston again in the playoffs,
but without the same fireworks. The Celtics swept the first-round
series in three games.
1992-93: Indiana Trades Famous Person
Prior to the 1992-93 season Indiana shook up its roster
by trading colorful star Chuck Person along with Williams to the
Minnesota Timberwolves for point guard Pooh Richardson and forward
Sam Mitchell. Once the season began the Pacers were average as
usual, fashioning a 41-41 record. Dale Davis, a 6-11 second-year
forward, set a new team record for field goal percentage at .568.
He also grabbed a team-high 291 offensive rebounds.
Versatile Detlef Schrempf, in his last season as a Pacer, moved
from sixth man to starter and played in his first NBA All-Star
Game. For the season, Schrempf averaged 19.1 points and yanked down
9.5 rebounds per game. His rebound total of 780 was the third
highest in Pacers history. Among other accomplishments, Schrempf
set a Pacers NBA record by making 22 free throws against Golden
State on December 8.
Reggie Miller, the team's all-time three-point leader, made 167
treys for the season, tying Phoenix's Dan Majerle for tops in the
NBA and falling only five short of the NBA single-season record. He
poured in a team-record 8 three-pointers against the Milwaukee
Bucks on April 18. He also scored 57 points versus the Charlotte
Hornets on November 28, the highest total for a Pacers player since
the team had entered the NBA and second only to George McGinnis's
58-point effort in 1972-73. By the end of the season Miller had
become the Pacers' all-time NBA scoring leader, with 9,305 points,
and he ranked fourth on the club's overall career list (which
includes ABA players).
The Pacers returned to the NBA Playoffs but again made an early
exit, losing to the New York Knicks, three games to one, in the
first round. Rik Smits came alive in the postseason, torching the
Knicks for 22.5 points per game. Miller also stepped up his play,
pouring in 31.5 points per game.
After the 1992-93 season Indiana fired Bob Hill and hired Larry
Brown as head coach. Brown had been criticized over the years for
his nomadic ways, but in his 21 seasons as a head coach at the
college, ABA, and NBA levels his teams had finished at .500 or
better 20 times. Brown was brought on board by longtime friend and
Pacers President Donnie Walsh, who had been Brown's college
teammate at North Carolina.
1993-94: Trade Helps Pacers In The End
Larry Brown's ability to turn clubs around continued at Indiana, as
the Pacers came within a few buckets of reaching the 1994 NBA
Finals. At the season's outset, however, Indiana fans were
skeptical. Days before the opener the Pacers traded All-Star
forward Detlef Schrempf to the Seattle SuperSonics for Derrick
McKey. Criticism of General Manager Donnie Walsh was severe: "Walsh
Builds a Contender," read a headline in the Indianapolis News,
adding, "However, That Place is in Seattle."
Much of the year unfolded in typical Pacers fashion, as the team
played .500 ball into April. However, the club turned hot as the
playoffs neared. The Pacers won their final eight games to finish
at 47-35, then whizzed through the first round of the postseason
with a sweep of the Orlando Magic. In the conference semifinals
Indiana upset the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks in six games.
All of a sudden, the Pacers were a well-rounded team: Rik Smits
was accurate inside, Reggie Miller outside. Dale Davis and rookie
Antonio Davis were hitting the boards, and McKey was providing the
intangibles. Indiana also received key help in the backcourt from
two new additions: veteran Byron Scott and journeyman point guard
The Pacers met New York in the Eastern Conference Finals. The
Knicks won the first two games in New York, but the Pacers came
back with two wins at Market Square Arena. In Game 5 at Madison
Square Garden, Miller exploded for 25 points in the fourth quarter,
leading Indiana to a key road victory and pushing the Knicks to the
brink of elimination. But New York prevailed, winning the next two
games to take the series in seven. With his hot shooting throughout
the playoffs, however, Miller catapulted himself to NBA
superstardom. In the offseason he was the leading scorer on Dream
Team II, the United States squad that won a gold medal at the 1994
World Championship of Basketball.
If the Pacers had a weakness in 1993-94, it was at the point
guard position. Shortly after the season, however, Indiana
addressed that need by acquiring former All-Star Mark Jackson from
the Los Angeles Clippers.
1994-95: Different Team, Unfortunately Same Result
Despite the arrival of Mark Jackson in 1994-95, the
Pacers' season ended exactly as it had the year before, with a loss
in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. This time the spoilers
were the Orlando Magic; the year before the Pacers had fallen to
the New York Knicks.
The playoff defeat ended a fine year for Indiana. The team won
its first conference title since joining the NBA and recorded its
first season with more than 50 wins (52-30) since the 1972-73
Indiana Pacers of the ABA won 51 games on the way to a league
Rik Smits enjoyed his best NBA season, averaging 17.9 points and
7.7 rebounds, both career highs. Reggie Miller continued to lead
the team offensively, pacing the Pacers with 19.6 points per game,
finishing fourth in the league in free throw percentage at .897,
and ranking 15th in the NBA in three-point percentage at .415.
Miller, a starter in the 1995 All-Star Game and a member of the
All-NBA Third Team, had some memorable moments, particularly in the
wild conference semifinals series against the New York Knicks. In
Game 1 at Madison Square Garden, Miller amazingly scored 8 points
in the final 16.4 seconds to erase a 6-point Knicks lead and steal
the victory. The Pacers went on to win the series in seven
Derrick McKey played a crucial if understated role for the
Pacers, placing first on the team in steals, second in assists, and
third in rebounding and scoring. One of the league's best defensive
stoppers, he was named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team at
1995-96: Miller Injury Shortens Playoff Run
The 1995-96 Pacers went only as far as All-Star Reggie
Miller could take them. Unfortunately, after an April 13 collision
that fractured Miller's eye socket, Miller could not rebound fast
enough to help them survive a first-round playoff loss to the
Miller and the Pacers were rolling along before the injury,
having won eight of their previous 10 games en route to a 52-30
record. Against Atlanta, the Hawks and Pacers split the first four
games, before Miller made a dramatic Game 5 return in front of the
home crowd at Market Square Arena. Although he scored 29 points,
the Hawks scored a two-point victory, putting an end to Indiana's
The early exit diminished a stellar regular season that marked
only the second 50-win season, and second consecutive, in franchise
history. Perhaps the best indicator of their talent was their
distinction as the only team to twice defeat the 72-10 Chicago
Bulls during the regular season.
Miller, who scored 21.1 ppg and achieved All-Star status, was
surrounded by a talented core of frontcourt players, including
center Rik Smits (18.5 ppg), forward Derrick McKey (All-Defensive
second team) and Dale Davis (team-high 9.1 rpg). The offseason
re-signing of Davis, Miller and forward Antonio Davis gave Indiana
fans reason to believe that the Pacers would be back in the
postsesaon picture in 1996-97.
1996-97: Pacers Land in Lottery
Pacers fans, accustomed to playoff basketball, saw the
1996-97 season end prematurely. After seven straight postseason
appearances, Indiana finished 39-43, out of the running in the
Eastern Conference playoff picture.
All season, the Pacers hovered near the .500 mark and were one
hot streak away from a playoff berth. Although the team was
comprised largely of the nucleus that led the Pacers to the Eastern
Conference Finals in 1994 and 1995, it couldn't get over the top,
despite a roster that featured style - Reggie Miller averaged 21.6
ppg to lead all scorers - and strength - Dale Davis and Antonio
Davis combined to average 17.0 rpg.
Foot injuries held back two-fifths of the Pacers starting lineup
for extended periods; Rik Smits missed 30 games following foot
surgery, and forward Derrick McKey was sidelined with a stress
fracture in his left foot. McKey returned in April, only to suffer
a ruptured Achilles tendon one week later.
Mark Jackson, who was critical to the Pacers' postseason success
in 1995, was reacquired from the Denver Nuggets in midseason to run
the offense. Jackson averaged 11.4 assists to lead the NBA, ending
John Stockton's nine-year reign as the league's top playmaker. Even
his presence was not enough for Indiana, whose fate was sealed with
a three-game losing streak to end the season.
Head Coach Larry Brown took much of the blame for the team's
malaise upon himself, indicating that he had failed to get the most
out of his players. Brown, who won his 600th NBA game on January 7,
resigned after the season, ending a four-year reign in which the
Pacers twice advanced within one game of the NBA Finals. His
departure paved the way for another Larry - NBA legend Larry Bird,
the Indiana native named to replace Brown as the Pacers' coach in
1997-98: Bird's Troops Fly High
The 1997-98 season was one of much anticipation for
Indiana fans, who embraced native son Larry Bird as their head
coach. One of the best players in NBA history, Bird quickly proved
he possessed an acumen for coaching as well, guiding Indiana to its
best record in franchise history at 58-24, and leading the team
within a game of reaching the NBA Finals for the first time.
The team Bird inherited from predecessor Larry Brown was
essentially the same veteran squad as the previous year, with one
notable addition - Bird's 1992 Olympic Dream Team teammate, Chris
Mullin. Mullin's skills as a perimeter shooter were well known, but
no one knew quite what to expect from Bird. It quickly became
apparent that Bird's knowledge of the game was a great asset, while
his even temperament and his respect for his players won him their
respect in return.
With the help of veteran assistant coach Dick Harter, the team
developed an identity as one of the top defensive units in the
league, and a team that focused on the fundamentals and played hard
every night, much as Bird did as a player. The Pacers offense,
under the guidance of assistant Rick Carlisle, continued to revolve
around All-Stars Reggie Miller and Rik Smits. Miller led the Pacers
with 19.5 ppg and earned a berth on the All-NBA Third Team. Smits,
who collected 10 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in his All-Star
debut, averaged 16.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg and 1.21 bpg.
Indiana's success was more than a two-man show. Dale Davis led
the team in rebounding at 7.8 rpg, along with 8.0 ppg, and Antonio
Davis contributed 9.6 points and 6.8 rebounds. Mullin led the
Pacers in steals (1.16) and averaged 11.3 ppg. Mark Jackson ranked
third in the NBA in assists at 8.7 apg and played particularly well
against the Knicks, his former team, in the Eastern Conference
Semifinals. In the Game 5 clincher, Jackson notched the first
playoff triple-double in Pacers' history with 22 points and
game-highs of 14 rebounds and 13 assists in the 99-88 Pacer
After disposing of the Cavaliers and Knicks in the playoffs,
Indiana entered a much-anticipated meeting with the Chicago Bulls
in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Pacers entered the series
with confidence after splitting the four regular season games
against the two-time defending champs. After dropping two close
games in Chicago, the Pacers made Memorial Day Weekend memorable
with two thrilling wins in front of a supportive home crowd at
Market Square Arena. Miller, whose playoff heroics have defined his
fine career, scored 13 of his 28 points in the final 4 and a half
minutes of the 107-105 Game 3 win, despite a sprained ankle. His
miraculous three-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining in Game 4 gave
the Pacers a 96-94 victory.
The home team held serve in the next two games, setting up a
Game 7. In a classic performance by both teams, the Pacers held a
72-69 lead with less than nine minutes to play. The Bulls, who
would go on to win their third straight NBA title, clamped down
defensively, dominating the boards. Scottie Pippen hit a couple of
big shots down the stretch to end the Pacers' season 88-83.
1998-99: Knicks Get in the Way
The Indiana Pacers reached the Eastern Conference
Finals for the fourth time in six years, but their path to the NBA
Finals was blocked again, this time by the surprising New York
Indiana dispatched of Milwaukee and Philadelphia in the
postseason before running into the eighth-seeded Knicks. The Pacers
battled the Knicks for six games, but fell 90-82 as Allan Houston
scored 32 points in the deciding matchup at Madison Square
The Pacers posted a 33-17 record during the lockout-shortened
season. Reggie Miller was Indiana's top scorer (18.4 ppg) and led
the NBA in free throw percentage (.915, 226-for-247). Dale Davis
led the team in rebounding (8.3 rpg) for a franchise-record sixth
year in a row.
The Pacers wrapped up their 25-year run in Market Square Arena
and were scheduled to begin play at brand-new Conseco Fieldhouse in
1999-00: Bringing the Finals to a New Home
Expectations weren't particularly high after the Pacers traded away popular veteran big man Antonio Davis to acquire the draft rights to No. 5 overall pick Jonathan Bender, a talented high school player who wouldn't help right away. In fact, veteran leaders including Mark Jackson questioned team president Donnie Walsh's commitment to winning that year. After a modest 7-7 start, it seemed the main topic of conversation would be the team's new home in Conseco Fieldhouse, in which they debuted on Nov. 6, 1999, after saying farewell to Market Square Arena during the preseason.
But the team quickly found its stride and wound up not only having a successful season, but the best postseason run in franchise NBA history. The Pacers won their first Eastern Conference championship and advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time ever, falling to the powerful Los Angeles Lakers in six games. Along the way, they won 25 games in a row on their new home floor, a franchise record, and captured their second consecutive Central Division title with a 56-26 record.
Individually, Jalen Rose moved into the starting lineup at small forward and won the NBA's Most Improved Player award, becoming the first player other than Reggie Miller to lead the team in scoring (18.2) in 11 years. Austin Croshere stepped into the sixth man role Rose had held the year before and emerged as a strong contributor, particularly in the postseason. Their improvement offset the loss of Davis and complemented the core of Miller, Mark Jackson, Dale Davis, Rik Smits and Travis Best.
In the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers needed an offensive rebound by Dale Davis and a three-pointer from Best to get past the upstart Milwaukee Bucks in a tough five-game first-round series, then dispatched Philadelphia for the second year in a row in the second round, winning in six games. That set up another rematch with the Knicks in the conference finals. After splitting the first four games, the Pacers won Game 5 at home, then closed out the series in Madison Square Garden behind 34 points from Miller to set up their first trip to the NBA Finals.
There, they ran into a dominating Lakers team led by Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, and the Pacers dropped the first two games on the road. They won the first NBA Finals home game in franchise history 100-91, and nearly pulled off another victory in Game 4 before losing a 120-118 decision in overtime. Though the Pacers drubbed the Lakers 120-87 in Game 5, the series was wrapped up by Los Angeles on its home floor in Game 6, a 116-111 decision that set off riots in the streets outside Staples Center.
2000-01: Another Legend Takes Charge
After having essentially the same team intact for the previous seven seasons, change came to the Pacers in a major way. Coach Larry Bird retired after three highly successful seasons. So did center Rik Smits, although he didn't make his decision until the week before training camp opened. Chris Mullin asked to be released so he could sign with Golden State and finish his career where it began. Free agent Mark Jackson left for the security of a long-term contract in Toronto. Dale Davis expressed disenchantment with his new contract extension and was traded to Portland in exchange for Jermaine O'Neal. And another state legend, a Hall of Fame player with no previous coaching experience, was hired to direct the team: Isiah Thomas.
With so many new faces, the Pacers predictably struggled through much of the early phase of the season. It quickly became clear that they wouldn't be able to remain with the top contenders in the conference and eventually they wound up in a two-team race for the final playoff berth with Boston. The Pacers trailed the Celtics by a game heading into a crucial showdown in the Fleet Center on March 30. When they won 92-87, the Pacers launched into a hot streak in which they won nine of their final 11 games, including seven in a row, to lock up the 11th playoff berth in 12 seasons.
Jalen Rose continued his emergence as a top-shelf NBA star by averaging a career-high 20.5 points, and O'Neal established himself as a force to be reckoned with by averaging 12.9 points and 9.8 rebounds in his first full season as a starter. O'Neal also tied for the league lead with 228 blocked shots, setting a franchise record in the process. Travis Best enjoyed the best season of his career, averaging 11.9 points and 6.1 assists as one of the game's most productive sixth men. And young talents like Al Harrington and Jeff Foster showed flashes of becoming major contributors in the years to come.
The postseason, once again, belonged to Reggie Miller. With the eighth-seeded Pacers going up against the heavily favored and top-seeded 76ers, Miller hit a vintage three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to deliver a shocking 79-78 victory in Game 1 in Philadelphia. Miller then proceeded to average 36.0 points over the next three games, but it wasn't enough as the Sixers rebounded to win the series in four games.
2001-02: Big Deal Helps Team Progress
A blockbuster seven-player trade with the Chicago Bulls in the midst of regular season play made a young Indiana Pacer team even younger. Before the trade, the Pacers were on the losing end of a battle for the final playoff spot with a 26-27 record. After the trade, which sent Jalen Rose, Travis Best, and a second round pick to Chicago in exchange for Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Kevin Ollie and Ron Mercer, the Pacers went 16-13, including victories in their final five games, and entered the playoffs for the 12th time in 13 years as the eighth seed.
In the opening round of the playoffs against the top-seeded New Jersey Nets, the Pacers forced the Nets into double overtime of Game 5. Not even 31 points, including a heroic three-point bomb to send the game into its first overtime, from Reggie Miller could defeat the Nets, who would go on to win the Eastern Conference championship.
During the course of the regular season, Miller passed Hal Greer, Larry Bird and Clyde Drexler to move into the 18th spot on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Miller ended the season with 22, 623 career points.
Jermaine O'Neal continued his emergence as a young star, earning his first All-Star selection. He averaged 19.0 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game, all team-highs, earning the NBA's Most Improved Player award as well as selection to third-team All-NBA. O'Neal and Miller were selected to represent the U.S. in the 2002 World Basketball Championship in Indianapolis. In addition, rookie point guard Jamaal Tinsley, who was acquired in a draft-night trade with Atlanta, played well enough to earn Rookie of the Month honors twice.
The run to and through the playoffs was done without sixth man Al Harrington, who was sidelined for the season on Jan. 23 with a knee injury that required surgery. Harrington averaged 13.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game before his injury.
2002-03: Fast Start, Slow Finish
After getting off to one of the fastest starts in franchise history (13-2), the Pacers couldn't sustain the momentum for a variety of reasons, many beyond their control. Though they finished 48-34, a substantial improvement over the previous season, the players felt playoff disappointment once again as they lost in the first round for the third time in a row, this time to the underdog Boston Celtics.
The Pacers had the best record in the Eastern Conference at the All-Star break (34-15), sending coach Isiah Thomas and his staff to the All-Star Game as well as two players. Jermaine O'Neal made his second consecutive appearance in the game - his first as a starter voted in by the fans - while Brad Miller was a first-time selection.
After winning the first three games after the break to improve to 37-15, the Pacers hit the wall and went 11-19 thereafter. An injury to Brad Miller played a role, as did the numerous suspensions drawn by Ron Artest as well as family tragedies that befell O'Neal, Jamaal Tinsley and Austin Croshere.
Individual honors continued to come to O'Neal, who was named All-NBA third team for the second year in a row. He also was selected to the U.S. team that would attempt to qualify for the 2004 Olympics.
2003-04: Returning to the East's Elite
A turbulent, momentous offseason set the stage for the most prolific regular season in franchise history. All-Star center Brad Miller, a free agent whose asking price exceeded the franchise's financial parameters, was traded to Sacramento in a three-team deal that brought Scot Pollard to the Pacers. Larry Bird returned to the franchise, this time as team President, with Donnie Walsh moving into the role of franchise CEO. Bird opted to make a coaching change, replacing Isiah Thomas with Rick Carlisle. Jermaine O'Neal and Reggie Miller both re-signed, keeping the franchise cornerstones intact.
Despite all the change, the Pacers rolled up the best record in the NBA, 61-21, setting a franchise record in the process. O'Neal continued to rack up individual honors, making his third All-Star trip and being named second-team All-NBA. Ron Artest experienced a breakthrough season, netting his first All-Star berth as well as the NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award. And Carlisle became the first coach since Pat Riley to win a division title in each of his first three seasons on the bench.
The Pacers swept Boston in the first round of the playoffs, gaining revenge for the upset of the previous year, then fought past a tough Miami team in six games. That sent the team back to the Eastern Conference Finals for the sixth time in 11 years, where the Pacers lost in six games to Detroit. The Pistons went on to win the NBA championship, sweeping the Lakers.
2004-05: Reggie's Last Stand
Just when the team appeared poised to challenge for a league championship, it all came tumbling down on Nov. 19, 2004, when Ron Artest went into the stands in the closing seconds of a game at The Palace of Auburn Hills, MI, precipitating an incident that resulted in unprecedented punishments. Artest was suspended for the remainder of the regular season and postseason. Stephen Jackson (30 games) and Jermaine O'Neal (25 games, later reduced to 15) also received heavy suspensions, crippling the lineup. Faced with the possibility of a lost season, the remaining Pacers instead rallied behind Reggie Miller to make the 39-year-old legend's final season one of the most memorable.
No fewer than 17 players started at least once as Coach Rick Carlisle employed 30 lineup combinations. Not only was the team hit hard by the suspensions, but several key players missed large portions of the season due to injuries, including O'Neal (shoulder), Jamaal Tinsley (foot) and Jeff Foster (hip surgery). Miller, who began the season on the injured list after breaking a bone in his left hand during the preseason, returned with a vengeance.
With Miller scoring at least 30 points six times and averaging roughly 20 points per game in O'Neal's absence, the Pacers surged late in the regular season and not only reached the playoffs, but did so as the No. 6 seed. They then proceeded to upset Atlantic Division champion Boston 4-3 in the first round before falling to the defending champion Pistons 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Semifinals despite a stirring 27-point performance from Miller in Game 6. Miller finished his career with 25,267 points, 12th on the NBA all-time scoring list, with the Pacers reaching the playoffs in 15 of his 18 seasons.
2005-06: Keeping the Streaks Alive
High expectations entering the season were quickly dashed by a startling trade request from Artest that once again disrupted the team after a fast start. Injuries then became the prevailing factor, forcing Carlisle to use 31 different lineups using 14 players. In fact, the projected starters entering the season (Tinsley, Jackson, Artest, O'Neal and Foster) never took the floor together. O'Neal missed 31 games, most due to a groin injury. Tinsley, hampered by foot and ankle problems, missed 40. Through it all, however, the Pacers managed to keep two streaks alive: they finished at .500 or better and reached the playoffs for the ninth consecutive year, the latter tied with San Antonio for the longest in the NBA.
There were some individual highlights. First-round draft pick Danny Granger showed flashes of brilliance in a strong rookie season. Veteran Anthony Johnson had a career year stepping in for Tinsley. Peja Stojakovic, acquired from Sacramento for Artest in a mid-season trade, averaged nearly 20 points per game after joining the Pacers. O'Neal became the first player ever to score at least 35 points (35), pull at least 15 rebounds (17) and shoot at least 80 percent from the field (12-of-15) in an NBA Playoff game when he did so in Game 3 of the first-round series against the Nets. Johnson then produced his career high with 40 points in Game 6, but it wasn't enough to keep the Pacers from being eliminated.
2006-07: 40th Anniversary Drama, Trauma
After Stojakovic opted to sign with New Orleans, the Pacers re-acquired popular forward Al Harrington from Atlanta during a busy offseason that also included the acquisitions of Marquis Daniels and Darrell Armstrong from Dallas in separate deals that sent Austin Croshere and Anthony Johnson to the Mavs. Perhaps because of all the changes, team chemistry never developed as hoped.
With the team struggling at midseason, a blockbuster trade was made with Golden State acquiring Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy, Ike Diogu and Keith McLeod while sending Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Josh Powell to the Warriors. The deal gave the Pacers an initial lift but as injuries began to take their toll again -- particularly painful was the loss of Daniels -- the team slipped into an 11-game losing streak after the All-Star break. That took the Pacers out of contention and they didn't reach the playoffs for the first time in 10 years.
2007-08: A Season of Transition
A season that began with a new coaching staff, led by Jim O'Brien, and a plan to return to the playoffs was doomed by some familiar problems -- namely, injuries to Jermaine O'Neal and Jamaal Tinsley. O'Neal missed 40 games and Tinsley 43, preventing the starting lineup from gaining any cohesion and leading to a second consecutive non-playoff finish with a 36-46 record.
O'Brien did have a major impact on the team's style of play, installing an up-tempo offense that resulted in a scoring average of 104 points per game, the team's highest in 15 years. The Pacers also set club records for 3-point field goals made (755) and attempted (2,021) and had three players with at least 100 made for the first time in club history (Danny Granger, Mike Dunleavy and Kareem Rush).
There were individual success stories on the court as Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy both enjoyed breakout seasons. Granger averaged 19.6 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.19 steals and 1.05 blocked shots in his third NBA campaign, establishing himself as the new face of the franchise. Dunleavy was one of the leading candidates for the league's Most Improved Player award after producing by far the best of his six NBA seasons, averaging 19.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.05 steals. Both Granger and Dunleavy shot better than 40 percent from the 3-point line, giving the Pacers a strong tandem of wing players to build around.
As the season was winding down, franchise CEO and President Donnie Walsh opted to end his long, successful run with the organization, moving to the New York Knicks as President of Basketball Operations. The Pacers enjoyed unprecedented success in Walsh's front-office tenure, which began in 1986, but were hardly left wanting by his departure. Larry Bird, who returned to the franchise in 2003, assumed the top spot in basketball operations after a lengthy term at Walsh's right hand.
2008-09: Same Result, Different Feeling
In his first offseason as the sole proprieter of basketball operations, Bird had a major impact, pulling two blockbuster trades (with Toronto and Portland) that brought veteran point guards T.J. Ford and Jarrett Jack as well as first-round picks Brandon Rush (No. 13, Kansas) and Roy Hibbert (No. 17, Georgetown), while sending longtime but faded star Jermaine O'Neal to the Raptors. With seven new faces on the roster and key returnee Mike Dunleavy felled by a knee injury that would cost him most of the season and eventually require major surgery, it took awhile for the Pacers to find their stride.
After struggling through November and December, they posted a winning record (26-25) in the 2009 portion of the schedule but fell short of the playoffs for the third year in a row. The season was marked by close games and dramatic finishes -- the Pacers played 21 games decided by three points or less, including last-second victories over the Lakers and Cavaliers and a rout of the Celtics. Theyh also played five overtime games.
There were many individual accomplishments, chief among them Danny Granger's rise to All-Star status. The new face of the franchise averaged 25.8 points per game, the highest by a Pacers player since Billy Knight's 26.6 in 1976-77, and became the first player in NBA history to raise his scoring average by at least five points in three consecutive seasons. Troy Murphy became the first player in NBA history to rank in the top five in rebounding (11.8, second) and 3-point percentage (.450, third) while setting a franchise records for defensive rebounds (715), total rebounds (861), rebound average and double-doubles (49).
2009-10: Playoffs Remain Elusive for Rebuilding Roster
Changes continued in the second season of Larry Bird's rebuilding project as the Pacers opened the season with six new faces: veteran free agents Dahntay Jones, Earl Watson, Luther Head and Solomon Jones and draft picks Tyler Hansbrough and A.J. Price. Hopes were particularly high for Hansbrough, as the most decorated collegian of his generation, fresh off a national championship with North Carolina, was snagged with the 13th pick. But Hansbrough's season reflected that of the team: out early with an injury, he returned and just as he was beginning to show the anticipated form, he was lost for the year with a mysterious combination of inner ear infection and post-concussion syndrome. Price proved a revelation as the second-round pick from Connecticut emerged as a solid third guard prospect.
The high point of the season was an early five-game win streak that included a victory over the Celtics but things quickly turned sour for the Pacers, who were well out of the playoff race by the All-Star break. They rallied to win 11 of their final 16 but finished with the worst record since 1988-89. Injuries again played a key role as in addition to Hansbrough, Jeff Foster missed the last 57 games and Danny Granger was out for 20. Nevertheless, hope for the future was generated by the progress of second-year prospects Roy Hibbert and Brandon Rush, the growth of Price and the emergence of Josh McRoberts as a key factor off the bench.