The 90s Indiana Pacers were one of the greatest teams during that era. Sadly for them, they clashed with Michael Jordan several times, failing to beat MJ and his Chicago Bulls. However, they are considered the biggest threat to Jordan’s success during those years, getting close to beat them in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals.
ESPN’s Bomani Jones recalled how the Pacers put together a good team in the 90s, making the Eastern Conference Finals five times in the decade, always trying to catch up and defeat the mighty Chicago Bulls led by Jordan.
Counting with players like Reggie Miller, Rik Smits and Jalen Rose, the Pacers became a powerhouse in the East, creating big rivalries with the New York Knicks and the aforementioned Bulls. During the Bulls’ last championship run in 1997, they pushed Chicago to a seventh game in the ECF, being close to defeating them in the decisive game.
“In 1998, the Bulls and Pacers split their regular season games. Indiana had its best team ever, 58 wins were the best in franchise history and they were top 5 in offensive and defensive efficiency and finally, they got their chance at Jordan in the Eastern Conference Finals. In six games, the home team held serve, five games within single digits. In Game 7, the Bulls led most of the second and third quarters before Indiana took a 72-69 lead. It was nip and tuck from there, but Chicago retook the lead with 4:45 left at 81-79. The lead never got bigger than five, but the Pacers never took it back. The Bulls survived their toughest postseason challenge of the 90s.”
Plenty of people consider that 1998 ECF as the toughest series the Bulls had to face during Jordan’s six championship runs. His Airness got in a physical altercation with Reggie Miller, their duels were extremely tough and they didn’t hesitate to go at it whenever they clashed.
Indiana would have a better chance to win the NBA championship in 2000, but the Lakers of Kobe and Shaq were ready to dominate the league, just like MJ did in the 90s. They had a great team, no doubt about it, but they always missed something to finally catch that trophy.