The Indiana Pacers have enjoyed recent success, establishing back-to-back playoff appearances in 2011 and 2012 after failing to make the postseason for six consecutive seasons.
In spite of this, their glory years in the NBA were in the mid to late 1990s—the era of Reggie Miller, Mark Jackson, Rik Smits, Haywoode Workman, Byron Scott, Derrick McKey and the Davis Boys, Dale and Antonio.
This was when the Indiana Pacers made the Eastern Conference Finals five times in seven seasons from 1994-2000. This glory era culminated in an NBA Finals appearance in 2000 against the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers, which defeated Indiana in six games to clinch the title.
In this time in NBA history, the Pacers made the loudest noise, producing memorable shots that deserve all-time recognition as the franchise's best ever.
These shots are not judged on flair, difficulty and execution alone. Rather, they are considered the top of the heap because of their long-term impact during the postseason.
Think of a buzzer-beating three-pointer that extends the Eastern Conference semifinals to a deciding seventh game. The winning team eventually goes on to snag the title. Had it not been for that shot, the team never would have advanced.
When this slideshow is over, you will realize the Indiana Pacers of the 1990s are not just about Hall of Famer Reggie Miller.
The Indiana Pacers finished 56-26 in 2000, establishing a franchise-best for most home wins with 36 in the spanking new Conseco Fieldhouse.
As impressive as these feats are, the Pacers were still reeling from their loss in the 1999 conference finals to the eighth-seeded Knicks. The Pacers were especially troubled by the four-point play of Larry Johnson off a foul by Antonio Davis, which turned the tide in New York's favor.
Prior to 2000, the first-seeded Pacers had lost four times in the conference finals in the previous six years. Now, they squared off in the first round of the playoffs against Ray Allen and the upstart Milwaukee Bucks.
Nobody expected this series to go the distance. In the deciding Game 5, Reggie Miller scored 41 points, but it was Travis Best who hit the biggest shot of the game—a three-pointer from the left corner to secure a 96-95 victory.
More importantly, the shot assured the Pacers of advancing to the second round against Allen Iverson's Philadelphia 76ers. In hindsight, had it not been for Best's heroics, Indiana would not have made it to its first-ever NBA Finals appearance against the Los Angeles Lakers in 2000.
Thanks to the fiercely competitive 1995 Eastern Conference Finals, Rik Smits owns the distinction of capping off one of the wildest and woolliest finishes ever in NBA playoff history.
Smits hit two free throws with 1:10 left to put Indiana up 89-87. After several unproductive trips down the floor for both teams, the Magic's Brian Shaw knocked in a three-pointer to give his team a one-point lead with 13.3 seconds remaining on the game clock.
Reggie Miller then drained a three of his own over the outstretched arms of Nick Anderson with 5.2 seconds remaining. Pacers up by two, 92-90.
In the ensuing possession, Penny Hardaway took the inbound pass from Dennis Scott, took two dribbles to his left and buried a triple over Haywoode Workman. Magic up by one, 93-92.
This set the stage for Smits.
With 1.3 seconds left, Smits set a screen for Byron Scott along the left baseline and then called for the ball as he was coming up to the free-throw line. After he took the inbound pass from Derrick McKey, he turned, pump-faked Tree Rollins out of the way and calmly hit a jumper from 13 feet at the buzzer.
Smits' performance proved the Pacers could hang tough with a young and hungry Magic team. More importantly, this shot showed that their strong playoff push in 1994 was no fluke and that they were ready to take on anyone.
Dubbed as the Memorial Day Miracle, this shot will reverberate in the hearts of many Pacers fans for generations to come.
The Pacers and Bulls were destined to meet in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.
After third-seeded Indiana beat the New York Knicks in five games in the semifinals, top seed Chicago dispatched the Charlotte Hornets in five to set up a highly anticipated Midwest matchup.
The Bulls won the first two games in close fashion at the United Center by an average margin of six points. In Game 3, Reggie Miller scored 13 of his 28 points in the final four-and-a-half minutes despite a sprained ankle to help Indiana eke out a 107-105 win.
Game 4 proved to be a decisive turning point—would the Bulls take a commanding 3-1 lead or would the Pacers even things up at 2-2?
The nip-and-tuck nature of the series continued.
The Bulls held a precarious one-point lead with 2.9 seconds remaining.
Miller, who was being guarded by Ron Harper, positioned himself along the left baseline. He then made a cut to the top of the key, where he was met by no less than Michael Jordan. Miller gave Jordan a hard shove as he prepared to receive the ball. He was able to create some space for himself as he launched a three-pointer from right quarter-court.
Jordan's ensuing desperation heave promptly rimmed out at the buzzer.
With Miller's memorable shot, the Pacers gave themselves a legitimate chance to advance to the NBA Finals for the first time. However, Jordan and the Bulls proved to be too much, knocking off the Pacers in Game 7, 88-83.
After Reggie Miller tormented the New York Knicks in Game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals with 25 fourth quarter points, many didn't expect him to come up big once again the following year.
They were dead wrong.
Miller and the Pacers were still stinging from the 94-90 Game 7 loss to New York the year earlier. As Game 1 of the teams' 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals was winding down, it appeared the Knicks were about to take a 1-0 lead. resting comfortably on a six-point cushion, 105-99 with 18.7 seconds remaining.
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, Miller Time happened.
Coach Larry Brown and his assistants drew up a play for Miller to receive the ball at left quarter-court from Mark Jackson. Miller buried a three as soon as New York's John Starks was coming at him.
Knicks 105, Pacers 102.
Anthony Mason, the Knicks' worst inbound passer, intended to pass the ball to a streaking Greg Anthony but he somehow slipped. The ball wound up in Miller's hands. He then had the presence of mind to retreat to the three-point area, hoist up another long bomb, and stick the dagger right into the heart of the opponent.
Knicks 105, Pacers 105.
Starks then uncharacteristically missed two free throws after being fouled by Indiana's Sam Mitchell.Miller punctuated his Big Apple heroics by knocking down two clutch free throws of his own with 7.5 seconds remaining in the game.
With no timeouts left to burn, New York failed to get a shot up as time wound down.
Pacers 107, Knicks 105.
Miller's big and memorable shots made a statement in two ways: they not only had what it took to beat the Knicks, they also made it clear they were a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
The shot that started it all.
The Pacers acquired Byron Scott in the 1993 offseason to shore up their outside shooting and provide another steadying veteran presence in the locker room.
This acquisition proved to be a pivotal turning point in Pacers history.
In 1994, Indiana finished the regular season with an eight-game winning streak to finish 47-35, good enough for fifth in the East. This set up a first-round showdown with fourth-seeded Orlando.
With four straight first-round exits, the Pacers knew the trend had to stop. As the first game in Orlando wound down, the Magic had a shaky 88-86 lead. The Magic knew all along that the Pacers would turn to Reggie Miller for the final shot of the game.
As Miller made his move toward the top of the key, three Magic defenders—Penny Hardaway, Nick Anderson and Shaquille O'Neal—tried to bottle him up. Miller caught sight of a wide open Byron Scott, who was lurking behind the three-point area in right quarter-court.
Scott's bomb secured a Game 1 victory for the Pacers, who proceeded to sweep Orlando in three games.
The shot not only spelled doom for the Magic, it also ultimately set the tone for deep playoff runs by the Indiana Pacers in the mid to late 1990s. This era reached its peak in the 2000 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.