By defeating the Orlando Magic and advancing to the second round of the playoffs, the Indiana Pacers have extended an already impressive season. The young team drastically improved its winning percentage compared to last season and defeated high-profile teams like the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and New York Knicks.
The question is, did anybody notice?
According to my research, the Indiana Pacers played a grand total of one game on national television this season. (Side note: I do not consider NBA TV to qualify as national TV. I am talking about games played on ABC, ESPN or TNT. There’s something about having either Kenny and Charles or Magic and Wilbon talking about your first-half performance that feels like validation). The only chance that the country had to watch the Pacers was a 111-94 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on ESPN back on March 14. The Charlotte Bobcats had exactly as many nationally televised games as the Pacers. Yes, the same Charlotte Bobcats that set the record for worst winning percentage in NBA history.
The lack of exposure continued in the playoffs.
In a five-game series with the Magic three of the games aired on NBA TV rather than the big three networks. I understand that without Dwight Howard this series was not exactly a draw, but it is pretty rare in this day and age that the majority of the games in a playoff series are not shown to a large-scale audience. There are probably a number of NBA fans who have yet to see the Pacers play this season, especially considering Game 4 was a Saturday afternoon affair that even plenty of NBA diehards decided to forego in order to at least see some sunlight during this hectic playoff schedule.
To make matters worse, the Pacers ranked 29th in attendance this season, which is a whole other problem altogether.
On the other hand, the Heat, a team everyone presume will handle New York soon and advance to face the Pacers in round two, had more games televised on TNT, ABC, and ESPN than any other team in the league. It is safe to say that every game of their second-round series will be on one of these stations. It is also safe to say a lot of people will be watching, because that tends to happen when the Miami Heat are involved.
So, possibly for the first time this season, there will be a lot of people paying attention to the Indiana Pacers against the Miami Heat. This young team will finally be getting the attention their play this year deserves. Depending on how they play, they can demand attention for the future.
Even if they don’t find a way to comply with the Fieldhouse crowd’s chant on Tuesday night to “Beat the Heat,” it is hard to believe they will only play one game next season on national television. They have at least made that jump to national relevance regardless of what happens over the next four to seven games.