The Indiana Pacers had their fair share of magical moments in the 2012-13 NBA season.
Some of these—those which really stood out—still linger in the minds and hearts of Pacers fans to this very day.
However, which of these take top honor?
Is it Paul George's career-high 37-point explosion against the New Orleans Hornets in November?
Or is it the victory against the Los Angeles Clippers on April 1 to cap off a perfect 4-0 road trip?
For the purposes of this article, the following simple criteria will serve as the main basis:
- An unforgettable shot that had a huge bearing on the game's final outcome
- A memorable individual or team performance from the Pacers
- An epic storyline or sub-plot to spice things up
Without further ado, let us get the ball rolling.
George Hill made sure it went in Indiana's favor.
Hill scooped up a high-arching shot over Howard's outstretched hand with 0.1 second left to secure the victory.
Not the prettiest of games, but that memorable last-second shot gave the Pacers some much-needed breathing room in the standings. Coming into the showdown against Los Angeles, Indiana was a picture of inconsistency at 6-8.
The Pacers also showed they can withstand an opposing superstar's onslaught during the season's early going. Here, it was Kobe Bryant who dropped 40 points on Indiana in spite of the flu.
It also set the tone for the rest of the season for Hill, who earned the starting point guard spot after the Pacers traded Darren Collison in the offseason. Hill went on to notch career-high averages in points (14.2), rebounds (3.7), assists (4.7) and steals (1.1).
This was a memorable game that made it this far in this list but not any further, as there were others that were simply better in terms of individual or team performance and game sub-plots.
Why should a 34-point blowout be considered as one of the Indiana Pacers' most memorable games of the 2012-13 season?
First of all, Indiana was one of the cellar dwellers in the league in terms of points scored (23rd) and assists per contest (27th) during the regular season. For the team to finish with 125 points (on 53-percent shooting from the field and almost 46 percent from three-point distance) means it can go off on any given night provided it executes to perfection.
Hard evidence of this was the Pacers' assist total of 28.
Secondly, it was against the New York Knicks, their long-time nemesis.
Thirdly, 2012-13 NBA Most Improved Player Paul George put on a great show defensively. He did block two shots and stole the ball once, but the most telling statistic was the production of his counterpart Carmelo Anthony, the league's leading scorer. Anthony finished with just 15 points on 7-of-21 shooting with George in his face all night long.
The bottom line was the Pacers did just about everything right as a unit in this game, making it known to the Knicks they will be in for a dogfight should they cross paths in the postseason.
Still, there were other games during the regular season which earned higher honors than this one because they were more heart-pounding.
Paul George is a great two-way player who also takes pride in his ability as a defensive stopper.
The November 21 game against the New Orleans Hornets was his coming-out party offensively.
George exploded for a career-high 37 points in this one. What's so impressive about this is that he only scored four points in the entire first half.
He literally caught fire in the second half, scoring at will and finishing with nine three-pointers to cap off a very memorable performance.
Coming into the contest, Indiana was a sub-par 5-7. Even without leading scorer Danny Granger, fans and management expected something better than this.
Even for just one memorable evening, George's epic shooting spree effectively overshadowed the Pacers' prior struggles during the month.
More importantly, this scoring binge was a sign that Paul George, the 2013 NBA Most Improved Player, has come on by enormous leaps and bounds. This definitely bodes well for the Indiana Pacers.
However, there were other games that got the better of this one in this list simply because they were more exciting and had bigger sub-plots.
On this night, $58-million man Roy Hibbert proved he is worth every cent the Indiana Pacers are paying him.
Putting his early season struggles behind him, Hibbert stepped up big-time with 28 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks to lead the Pacers to a nine-point win over the Houston Rockets.
This contest also showcased what was probably his best highlight reel of the regular season.
With 4:36 to play and Indiana up 92-81, Greg Smith drove to the basket only to be blocked by Hibbert. Smith got the ball back, went up for another shot, only to be foiled again by the Pacers center.
Two left-handed blocks in succession.
But this game wasn't just about Big Roy.
Lance "Born Ready" Stephenson, who was the main beneficiary of Hibbert's two monster blocks with his breakaway layup on the other end of the floor, finished with 21.
Just as in the February 20 game against the Knicks, Paul George was once again a stud on defense. Although James Harden of the Rockets wound up scoring 22 points, he was 6-of-24 from the floor, thanks to George's defensive prowess.
In the end, this was a victory that featured several standout performances which also had a very important repercussion: A huge confidence-booster that set the tone for an unblemished four-game West Coast road trip.
If there was one game that almost got away from the Indiana Pacers in the 2012-13 NBA season, this is it.
Roy Hibbert continued to assert himself, finishing with 26 points (15 in the first quarter, shooting 5-for-5 from the field) and 10 rebounds before fouling out. Indiana led by as many as 24 points at 79-55 before holding off a furious Los Angeles Clippers rally led by Jamal Crawford.
This was a game which also clearly displayed the end-game savvy of veteran David West, who calmly sank a 17-foot fadeaway jumper from right quarter-court over Blake Griffin to put the Pacers up by four, 101-97, with 48.5 seconds left to play.
A Lamar Odom triple that bounced off the rim at the buzzer sealed the deal for the Pacers, who, by virtue of this important win, finished their West Coast road trip with an unblemished 4-0 mark. This was no doubt a great confidence booster which should carry into the postseason.
This is the sort of achievement which has been unheard of in Pacer lore during the franchise's lean years from 2006-2011, the type of regular-season win with big playoff implications.
The win also propelled the Pacers' record to 48-27. At 21 games above .500, this is a luxury they hadn't enjoyed since the 2003-04 season, when Hall of Famer Reggie Miller was nearing his last hurrah in Pacers pinstripes.
At this point in the regular season, this gaudy standing still put Indiana in contention for the second seed in the Eastern Conference. They had a chance to lock this up depending on how they fared in the homestretch and how their rivals, the Knicks, took care of business on their end.
In terms of where this game stands as far as the Pacers' most memorable regular-season games are concerned, there were two more which featured more impressive performances.
What better way to make a big statement against the defending champs?
This was exactly the message the Indiana Pacers got across to the Miami Heat and the rest of the NBA in this one.
Winning the game 102-89 in which it never trailed, Indiana also proved its earlier 87-77 conquest of Miami on January 8 was definitely no fluke.
Two double-digit wins against the defending champions without leading-scorer Danny Granger in both games.
Think about it.
Other notable sub-plots worth mentioning:
- Indiana shot 55.7 percent from the field to finish with 102 points—hard evidence which proves the Pacers are not just a defensive ballclub provided they execute to perfection.
- David West carried the load offensively for the Pacers by finishing with 30 points. He made 11 straight shots, picking his spots magnificently after missing his first.
Even if this was just a regular-season game, this win should serve notice that the Pacers, who were eliminated by the Heat 4-2 in last season's second round, are not to be taken lightly should a postseason rematch ensue.
However, there was one more game against a lesser opponent that was simply more memorable.
If the April 1 win over the Los Angeles Clippers was the one that almost got away from the Indiana Pacers, this contest was the one that they never should have won.
For the most part, they played like the Pacers of the recent post-Miller era, a 30-plus win team that routinely underachieved and suffered the ire of fans throughout Indiana.
On this night, after being outscored 31-16 in the third period, they were behind by 20 to the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers.
Hard to imagine anybody overcoming that sort of deficit that late in the ballgame.
This wasn't the most desirable scenario, considering Indiana was coming off a two-game losing streak, with its most recent loss in the form of a blowout against another lesser opponent, the Washington Wizards.
In other words, considering this was their 78th game of the regular season, the Pacers needed to regain their swagger and momentum heading into the playoffs.
A loss, which would likely be detrimental to their postseason aspirations, was staring them right in the face.
Miraculously, just like Roy Hibbert turning his entire season around, somebody flipped the switch.
By outscoring Cleveland 35-10 in the fourth quarter behind George Hill's heroics, Indiana went on to win by five.
This, after being down by 20 after three periods.
Above all, the Pacers also managed to keep their two-game skid in check and gave themselves a chance to regroup before the playoffs.
It was also the kind of win and end-game performance that would resonate in any fan's heart for quite some time no matter who the opponent is.
This was definitely one for the ages.