Throwback Tuesday: What if the 2013-14 Indiana Pacers never combusted?

Paul George, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Paul George, Indiana Pacers (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images) /

Sadly, the Indiana Pacers are one of the 11 NBA franchises to have never won a championship. Admittedly, the franchise is still far away from the coveted hardware, but nearly a decade ago, Indianapolis had a squad that could have very much won it all.

The 2013-14 Indiana Pacers remain one of the most successful teams in franchise history. After flirting with an NBA Finals berth the season prior, the franchise seemed poised to be in contention for a good chunk of years, and that squad indeed had the makings of a brewing NBA champion.

However, despite a historical run in the first half of the season, the Pacers stumbled pretty badly in the second leg of their campaign. This culminated in nearly being upset in the first-round of the NBA Playoffs before bowing down to the LeBron James-led Miami Heat in six game without really giving them a legitimate scare.

But what if they managed to sustain their fiery start to the 2013-14 season and eventually usurped the Heat?

What if the 2013-14 Indiana Pacers never combusted?

The 2014 Pacers prided themselves on defense, finishing with the best defensive rating in the league. Despite being offensively scarce at times, that team always found a way to win games by big margins by forcing opponents to yield to their physical play style and settle for an ugly game.

If Indiana managed to squeak past Miami, awaiting them in the finals were the San Antonio Spurs, a team that utterly destroyed the Pacers’ tormentors. That Spurs team remains memorable these days, being near-synonymous with the terms “ball movement” and “teamwork”. Go to YouTube right now and see for yourselves why.

Would the Pacers have beaten the Spurs that year? They could have defended them better than the Heat, but San Antonio possessed a unique ability to shape-shift its roster and play counter-culture without really conceding anything on both ends. Remember how much Indiana struggled against the Hawks’ motion offense back then? Well, crank the knob 10 times against the Spurs. Simply put, Gregg Popovich and co. will likely remain the victors in that hypothetical matchup.

Things would be different, however, had the 2014 Pacers (the first-half version) faced the 2014 Thunder. While the latter were led by the league MVP in Kevin Durant back then with Russell Westbrook and top-form Serge Ibaka backing him up, Indiana can pretty much impose itself still against Oklahoma City’s more conventional set-up.

Paul George, Lance Stephenson, and George Hill are all capable — as a collective — of making each game tough for Durant and Westbrook offensively. David West has the veteran flair to outsmart Ibaka. A motivated Roy Hibbert could have thrived even against Kendrick Perkins. Even the Pacers’ thin bench would look intimidating if paired next to the Thunder’s thinner second-unit. In short, the 2014 Pacers could have beaten the 2014 Thunder — though both ended up as eventual losers in their respective series.

Nine years after, the Indiana Pacers have fully moved on, though their fans are probably still thinking at times of what could have happened if that 2014 team peaked at the right time. Hopefully, a title is within reach for the franchise sometime in the future to quench our thirst for one and quell all the “what could have beens”.

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