20 years later, Pacers reflect on only NBA Finals trip: 'You always wonder what could’ve been.'
INDIANAPOLIS — The moment is as clear to Donnie Walsh today as it was 20 years ago. As he looked over his Indiana Pacers, slumped, weary, dejected and withered by a will that had taken them so far — though not quite far enough — the time had come.
A journey that began in 1987 with the drafting of Reggie Miller and Rik Smits in '88 had four hours remaining as the wheels lifted on their flight from Los Angeles on June 19, 2000.
The Pacers had lost Game 6 to the Lakers 116-111 and with it, their only chance at an NBA championship in 44 years.
“I remember saying to myself, 'These guys have tried for a long time to win a championship,’” says Walsh, president of basketball of basketball operations during the franchise’s first NBA Finals appearance in 2000. “‘They gave everything they could. They practiced the right way. They were focused on winning a championship and they got beat. I’ve got to change the team now.’
“Still, that’s how I feel today. I had to do it.”
The effort was valiant. If they'd won Game 4 at home in overtime, which would've tied the series at 2, who knows how that could've altered history for the small-market little guy vs. the big-market behemoth featuring MVP Shaquille O'Neal.
In the previous two seasons, the Pacers had fallen short of reaching the NBA Finals, losing in the conference finals in 1997-98 and 1998-99 under coach Larry Bird.
"I didn't ...
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