Judge Ryan Keefer knows about the Dodge Pacer and even the very seldom known Toyota Hoosier.
Celebrating 40 years of Pacers basketball excellence!
Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines Hoosier as a "native or resident of Indiana." As the origins of basketball were discovered in a Kansas gymnasium at the turn of the century, the logical assumption is that people in the Midwestern farm belt would have a natural attraction to the game. It was illustrated somewhat effectively in the sports classic Hoosiers, but the kinship people have for the game in Indiana is somewhat mythical, made all the more so by a star who rose from a sleepy town called French Lick. The player was Larry Bird, and the contributions he has made to the game and the people in the region are immeasurable.
The Indiana Pacers came to the NBA from the much-ballyhooed American Basketball Association, and when the ABA folded, the Indiana Pacers were one of those teams that merged with the NBA to give the basketball fan a then-unprecedented number of teams and enjoyment. In a sense, it was almost a shame, as the Pacers were the closest thing to a dynasty that the ABA had, appearing in its finals five times in eight years, and despite some early hurdles, have become a formidable team under the leadership (coach or general manager) of Bird himself. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the team's pro basketball existence, Warner Brothers has chipped in and provided basketball (read: Pacers) fans an opportunity to witness four of the franchise's greatest basketball games, one on each disc, focusing on the 1994-2000 era.
It is without question that the Pacers' postseason success of the 90s (and 2000) can largely be attributed to Reggie Miller. Miller's reputation is that he's one of the more memorable clutch shooters in recent memory, and three of the four discs cover Miller's performance in key playoff situations. The first disc covers Game Five of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, where the Pacers found themselves in one of many battles against the New York Knicks. Highlighted by Miller's 25 points in the fourth quarter alone, the Pacers beat the Knicks 93-86 to take a three games to two lead in the series.
Disc Two has the game that will go down in history as Miller's signature career performance. In Game One of the 1995 Conference Semifinals, the Knicks pulled away from the Pacers and went up by six points with seconds remaining. Miller went on an unheralded hot streak, scoring eight points in the last ten seconds (and ten in the final minute of play) to pull even with and then ahead of the Knicks. The game was perhaps crystallized most by the rivalry that Miller and director (and resident Knicks fan) Spike Lee enjoyed by yelling at each other, sometimes during gameplay. While many people remember the Miller streak (and rightly so), a lot of people seem to forget about the chances the Knicks had to win the game. After Miller's game tying three point shot, the Pacers fouled Knicks player John Starks with 12 seconds left. Starks was an exceptional shooter, but he missed two free throws which would have put the Knicks ahead again, and Patrick Ewing missed a shot at the buzzer which would have tied the game. Afterwards, Miller said that Ewing and Starks "choked," and it's hard to disagree with him on that.
Moving onto Disc Three and more Eastern Conference playoff action in 1998, the Pacers found themselves against the Chicago Bulls, with their playoff series tied at two games each. Miller, who had been playing on an injured ankle, was able to drain a go-ahead three pointer to give the Pacers the edge. And in reviewing that game, Miller found himself on the precipice of disciplinary action, almost getting into a fight with Bulls players at their bench area shortly before the jumper. And when Michael Jordan came from out of nowhere to block the first shot attempt by Indiana's Derrick McKie, the game might have seemed over at that point. But still, the ball hadn't been in Miller's hands to that point. Another great game. And in Disc Four, Miller and the Pacers slay their playoff demon, beating an aging Knicks team convincingly in the 2000 Eastern Finals to go on to play in the finals against the Lakers.
Dion Cocoros, Warner's senior director of original programming, has to be given a bit of credit for scouring through the successes of the franchise, but the problem is that a lot of these fulfilling wins were followed by defeats at a "next step" level. Two of the games on this disc were Pacers wins in a series that they wound up losing, while the other two series found the Pacers losing in the next round. Regardless, the original broadcasts are preserved in their glory, as Marv Albert, Bob Costas, Doug Collins, Bill Walton, Tom Hammond and other NBC sportcasters broadcast and commentate.
The bottom line is that for Pacers fans, this is a no-brainer to add to their collection. The problem may be that it could remind those fans of the team's failures and could potentially trigger some bad memories. But still, this set is a testimony to just how confident the NBA is of its video library, with the action being the prime selling point for good reason. I look forward to more and more of these sets from Warner Brothers and the NBA.
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