Tonight, in Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Pacers have nothing but opportunities.

Leading the Orlando Magic 3-1 in their best of seven first round series, the most obvious of these opportunities is to advance to the second round. For the Pacers, it is the opportunity to win a playoff series for the first time since seven years ago yesterday, when Reggie Miller’s last team knocked off the Celtics in the first round of 2005 NBA Playoffs.

For several key Pacer players, it marks the opportunity to go somewhere they’ve never been. Of the top eight in Frank Vogel’s rotation, five – Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison, Paul George, and Tyler Hansbrough – have never won a playoff series. Four – Hibbert, Collison, George, and Hansbrough – will be playing in their 10th playoff game of their young careers.

For Pacer coach Frank Vogel, it is the opportunity to continue to prove himself as an NBA coach.  Less than 18 months ago, it was being reported that the Pacers would not fire then-coach Jim O’Brien primarily because they didn’t want to elevate one of the assistants to the job. This raised clear questions about Vogel, who was the lead assistant at the time.  Additional doubts were made clear during the extended hiring process, in which Larry Bird supposedly was insisting on strong assistants before making Vogel’s position permanent. And now, after coaching his team to 42 wins, the 38-year old Vogel is on the verge of making his first appearance in the second round.

For the franchise and for this city, there is the opportunity to take one more step – a giant one – in repairing what had been a horribly mangled relationship.  This may be the biggest opportunity of them all.The first two games of this series in the Fieldhouse were reported as sellouts. More importantly, the crowds were loud and overwhelmingly pro-Pacer. There’s plenty of reason to hope tonight’s crowd will be much the same.

For all of the fascination with championships and stars, this is really where bonds are made between a franchise and its fans.  The magic isn’t in the fact of titles, but in the dream of titles. What keeps people coming back is the hope, and this spring brings the opportunity for hope to take root once again.

I’ve watched a lot of Pacer basketball, and while Reggie and 8 points in 9 seconds and all of the playoff success is special, I can think of no personal memories I cherish more than watching from high in the stands at Market Square Arena, when Chuck Person hit a PUJIT three to all but lock up Game Four of the 1991 First Round playoff series against the Celtics. I can think of no moment when I felt more a part of a Pacer community, than walking down the ramps at MSA after sweeping Orlando in 1994 – everyone laughing and shouting, cars honking their horns and the world filled with nothing but Pacer fans.

What happened yesterday, and what will come the rest of the playoffs are really of little importance tonight. Tonight, there are just these opportunities, and all that really remains to be done is for the Pacers – and all of us – to reach out and grab them both hands.


Tags: 2012 Playoffs

  • MachoMan Randy

    Well said! This organization has shared some really special memories with me over the years. Shout out to the Ice House Lounge in Market Square Arena. I have never cared for your beer, but I loved your seats!

  • Chris B.

    I too have fond memories of that 1994 series-clinching game against the Magic. I’m pretty sure that fans actually brought brooms to the game and were waiving them around in the closing seconds.

    I’ve been thinking all along that re-solidifying the fan base is the biggest reason why the Pacers need to win this series. So far there’s been little national attention paid to this series (and rightfully so, given that it’s not a very sexy matchup and has a predictable outcome), but just wait until Miami comes to town (if we win this series). There will be a buzz; there will be genuine excitement and interest in this team. That should really start to draw some people in.

  • Chris D.

    Oddly. My favorite moment as a Pacer fan was watching the young Reggie/Smits team lose in OT to the Wizards. That led to the firing of Versace and bringing in Bob Hill. That for me is when the Pacers first era of NBA greatness began. (All coaches except for JOB have been over .500 since.) Now, that I live outside of Indiana and mostly see away games in Charlotte, Atlanta, or DC, most of my memories are of the Schadenfreude that comes from watching fans leave the arena disappointed at losing to the Pacers. I swear back in the late ’90s about 500 of us Pacers fans out-cheered the Hawks at a pretty full home game. After the game, I went down courtside and shouted at Dale Davis, “You’re a bad man!” He looked in my general direction, surprised. Then he saw my Pacers shirt and winked and pointed.

  • http://Www.Facebook.com/trudra Tap

    Very eloquently put, and it’s cool to hear you and the commenters reminisce about playoff series from years past.

    I remember the Orlando ’94 series. I was a Hoosier kid and like many kids in the early 90s, I was enamored with the cool, young star: Shaq. I rooted for the Pacers during the season to a degree but not if they played Orlando. As soon the playoffs series ended, I was so excited by the Pacers and their spirit that I never looked back as a dedicated Pacer fan.

  • http://@magoblanco17 Mago Blanco 17

    My defining pacer moment was Reggie’s hitting a 3 in the final second agains MJ.

    Everyone was asleep, I was on my ex girlfriend home. She could not understand why I was shouting for a team of a remote city in a remote country.

    You could say I was converted into a Pacer because of Reggie. Now I’m a fan of my own.

  • dwain

    i’m ready for a certain team to show some killer’s instinct tonight, to handle bizness, to kick azz and take names and walk away tonight knowing they can do that to any team in the playoffs…
    GO PACERS!!!!!

    my fav Reggie moment was every time his eyes got that gleam of determination in em…and that was lots

  • dwain

    oh yeah!!!! congrats Pacers on winning a series! wonderful journey of self discovery u guys are on, u have come a long way…but now comes round two and the journey will become twice as hard. it is time to find another gear Pacers, time to step it up yet another notch. enjoy yer victory but get ready to work twice as hard to move on again

  • NoLookPass

    Does everyone but Lou, DC and West dislike Tyler? Serious question because I have never seen a player be so wide open time and time again for easy scores for people to refuse to give them the ball in favor and a 10 times more difficult shot. With that many easy shots not put in his lap its clear to see why his shooting percentage is low.

    We need to either use him right or not play him at all. He’s a scorer who draws tons of fouls and we’re not allowing him to be that with just 7 FT attempts in 5 games with 3.8 PPG. He’s not a great defender, rebounder or passer so there is honestly no reason to use him if we aren’t going to play to his limited strengths.

    Its a concerning trend that’s been going on for most of the second half of the season and is something we can get away with against bad teams and this thin Magic team but the Heat is going to roll us in 4 or 5 games if we have noting past our top two bigs. God forbid something happen to Roy or West but we’re one bad landing from getting totally exposed.

    This series should have been a cakewalk and a live practice to get ready for the Heat but all that was accomplished other than DC waking up. Other than that we rode West and Danny hard and their FG% slipped. We got away from smash-mouth by jacking up tons of 3′s and jumpers only to see our FT totals drop, and we totally got away for PG and Tyler two players we will need to beat the Heat.

    Play these same games against the Heat we lose in 4 games, its nice we won a series and its been a while but this team is capable of much more but is playing a brand of basketball
    that is going to get embarrassed by Miami thanks to getting away from their smash-mouth
    style which can get the Heats stars in foul trouble.

  • Buzzkill

    Talk about a buzz kill ^^^^^


  • NoLookPass

    I have bigger goals for this team than just beating Orlando without its best player, We won but got away from what got us here and what will win us games against the Heat and other good teams.

    16.1/26.1 in Regular Season
    18.2/20.8 in Series
    +2.1/-5.3 vs Regular Season

    We only shot 13 3′s in game one so in the 4 wins we took 19.5 a game, JOB would be impressed.

  • Buzzkill

    Not sure it is fair to compare regular season averages to a playoff series in which you’re playing the same team every game, not to mention a small sample size.

    That being said, I’m not disagreeing with you that they could have done some things better (I have no doubt they’d say the same things themselves), my point was mainly that this may not be the right time to bring all of it up, at least not on a post that is clearly more about how far they’ve come and not how far they still need to go. Reflection for improvement has its place, I would simply suggest that place is not here and not now. Fans just want to bask in a little reflected glory for a few hours before the reality of Miami brings us back down to reality.

    But hey, it’s the internet, do what you want, that’s just my 2 cents.

  • Realist

    NLP wants to win the title – now. I don’t blame him.

  • poot

    The Magic gave us open 3′s all series long as they committed their defense fully to Roy and as the series progressed even more to DWest.
    If the Heat are giving us open 3′s like that, I say take them.

    Yeah yeah smashmouth style to draw FTAs… but if you burn a team from deep eventually they will change up their defensive schemes to be less conservative in that right, and that’s when fouls really start to pile up quick. I am encouraged by Danny leading the league in post season 3′s thus far. It’s those kinds of numbers a stats driven coach like Spolestra will hone in on, and I doubt he is going to have his game-plan be “Leave the leading 3 point scorer open, he only shoots 35%…”