10 Big Moments from the Pacers’ 2013 Season
Now that the Pacers’ 2012-13 season is in the books, let’s take look back at 10 big moments from the season:
1. Weight Lifted, Gates Open
Paul George will never forget his night in Golden State on Dec. 1. It was one of the low points in his young, budding career. He acknowledged feeling the pressure of having to make up for Danny Granger being out with a knee injury. On this night, George wasn’t himself. He missed all seven shots attempted and was scoreless in more than 29 minutes. Once the team’s charter arrived back in town, around 6 AM, George will directly to the practice court at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and got 500 shots up. In the next game three days later, George bounced back in a big way, leading all scorers with 34 points and helping the Pacers to an impressive 80-76 win in Chicago.
2. Completing a 22-point comeback in New Orleans
It was three days before Christmas, on the second night of a back-to-back after playing in Cleveland the previous night and suffering through weather problems that delayed their arrival. In New Orleans against a struggling Hornets (now Pelicans) team, the Pacers nearly had as many turnovers (7) in the first quarter as points (11). Down as many as 22, the Pacers came out of the locker room with a renewed fight and outscored the Hornets 24-7 in the third period, including 17 unanswered. Having nearly outscored the Hornets’ second-half output in the fourth quarter alone, the Pacers stuck together and completed the impressive comeback. David West, who played his first eight seasons in New Orleans, did a lot of of the grunt work and fittingly, was also honored for scoring his 10,000 career point.
3. Reggie Praises Paul George
The Pacers had just beaten the Miami Heat by 10 two days prior. Now, in front of a nationally televised audience, the Pacers would need another big night to beat one of the powers in the East. Paul George had a complete game, finishing with 24 points, 11 rebounds, a career-high six steals and five assists in leading the Pacers to a 81-76 victory. Hall of Famer Reggie Miller witnessed the game courtside, serving as the analyst for TNT. As someone who was the face of the franchise for more than a decade, Miller dubbed George the new face, and what an honor that was to the 22-year-old. George later won the NBA’s Most Improved Player award and was named All-Defensive Second team. He recorded a triple-double in the first playoff game against Atlanta.
4. Strength of the Home Court
The Pacers were excellent at the Fieldhouse. They went 30-11 during the regular season and 8-1 in the playoffs. The Pacers went 58 days without a home loss this season, from Dec. 12 to Feb. 8, a streak of 15 straight wins. It was team’s most successful streak since winning 25 in a row during the 1999-2000 season. The Pacers, however, were burnt out on that final day, playing their fourth game in five days, including three consecutive games — the only NBA team to have such a schedule. And if not for a couple poor possessions to close the game, one they were clearly playing on fumes, the streak would have lived on against the Toronto Raptors.
5. Post All-Star Roy
Roy Hibbert had been in All-Star the previous year, but this season his game, particularly on offense, turned around after the All-Star break in mid-February. The 7-2 center had signed a maximum-deal in the summer, worth $58 million over four years. As such a caring individual, he wanted to prove he was deserving of the contract. He also was dealing with a wrist injury that wasn’t discovered until a couple months into the season. That finally healed, his confidence returned and the Pacers had the complete center they invested in. Before the All-Star break, he averaged just 10 points per game while shooting 41 percent, a very low conversion rate for someone whose shots are primarily around the basket. In the final 26 games after break, he made half his shots and averaged 15 points per game. In the conference finals against Miami, he was the best player not named LeBron. He protected the rim, and averaged 22.1 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in the series.
6. Division Crown
It’s a title they haven’t had since 2004. And it’s a title they have hold held for five seasons since joining the Central Division in 1979. Division Champions. That’s sweet for this Pacers team because it marked the first time they had accomplished a big goal together. They had made great progress over the last two and a half years with Frank Vogel in command and they’ll forever be able to look up at this banner and knew they had a hand in it. It’s also a great indicator of season success because each time the franchise has won the division, they’ve advanced to the conference finals.
7. 4-0 Western Trip
They ventured out West, away from home for four straight games. Ideally, teams try to do no worse than split games during a long road trip. So when the Pacers turned in four decisive victories all over Western Conference teams — Houston, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles (Clippers) — they were thrilled. Also, of the eight East teams in the playoffs, the Pacers were the only ones able to record a win on the Clippers’ home floor.
8. Vogel’s Ejection Sparks Pacers’ Win
The Pacers had dropped their two previous games by 22 and 19. They trailed the measly Cleveland Cavaliers by 15 points late in the third quarter when Vogel decided enough was enough. He got tossed and sent back to his office for the final 14 minutes. The Pacers outscored the Cavs 35-10 in the fourth quarter and prevailed 99-94. “Sometimes you’ve got to change the game,” Vogel said postgame. It worked, and what a remarkable feat it was.
9. (Un)lucky 13 — the Skid Ends
There was something about Phillips Arena in Atlanta that caused the Pacers problems. Until Game 6 of their first-round playoff clash, the Pacers had boarded the bus and left the arena with a loss 13 straight times. Finally it ended, and the 81-73 win launched the Pacers into the second round. Maybe it was the gold jerseys, but more than likely it was their defense, which held the Hawks to 33 percent from the field, and dominated of the inside game. This was a hurdle the team had to overcome, as not one player on the Pacers’ active roster had won in Atlanta.
That’s been the team motto since Vogel took over two and half years ago. Their closeness was never more apparent than after their Game 6 victory over New York to clinch the Pacers’ first conference finals berth since 2004. Lance Stephenson had just recorded his second career play off double-double with a career-high 25 points and 10 rebounds. He was the fifth different Pacer to lead the team in scoring during the six-game series and then go to the podium. However, the starters chose to go up together, as one unit. A rare sight.