The Indiana Pacers are generally known as a franchise that values winning teams these days, but that wasn’t always the case.
After being highly successful in the ABA, the Pacers struggled when they transitioned over to the NBA in 1976. Less than a decade later, in 1983, the Pacers found themselves in a rough stretch during the season.
They had a promising young player in Clark Kellogg, who would go on to have one of the best stretches in the Gold and Blue for anyone to ever play. But that doesn’t mean the team always looked successful during that time.
Between February of 1982 to December of 1983, the Indiana Pacers lost 28 straight road games. You read that right, 28 straight. Talk about not being able to win off your home court.
It was the second night of a back-to-back on the road, and the Pacers’ star rookie Clark Kellogg was not playing (load management?). The Pacers would have to rely on other players this evening.
Denver themselves were not necessarily a juggernaut (38-44 at season’s end), but were led by future hall of famer Alex English. The team was a great offensive group (2nd in NBA) but nearly last in defense (22nd out of 23).
This meant that the Pacers would need to be able to succeed in a run-and-gun affair in order to beat the Nuggets. The Nuggets were going to score on the Pacers, but the Pacers would have to score even more on the terrible Nuggets defense.
The Pacers got off to a hot start scoring 40 in the first quarter. You’ll hear people say that defense doesn’t exist in the modern NBA, but high scoring affairs have always been part of the story.
The Nuggets punched back in the second outscoring the Pacers in the second quarter going into halftime with a 3-point deficit.
Can you imagine how tense every road game would feel on a losing streak like this?
The Pacers exited halftime and were able to keep pace with the HOF player Alex English and his crew of Denver Nuggets. By games end the Alex English had 34 points.
The Pacers? They won this game 133-132 (a high scoring affair!) and ended their long losing streak.
The Indiana Pacers didn’t go on to do much that season, finishing 26-56. By both the standards then and today, a failure of a team.
However, for a moment the Pacers were able to summon their strength and overcome a Hall of Fame player and a 28 road game losing streak.