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‘Extra Credit’: a quick rundown of the Pacers’ historic playoff run

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The Indiana Pacers defied expectations and made a remarkable run to the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2023-24 NBA season, exceeding many expectations while captivating fans with their high-energy play style and resilience. 

“We thanked our players a few moments ago for an amazing season, a magical season,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said after the 105-102 loss to the Celtics on May 27. “A lot of respect to our players and how they conducted themselves in the series … There were a lot of things accomplished this year and certainly expectations will be raised for next year.”

Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers on May 17, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, IN. (Photo/Walt Thomas)
Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle during Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 17, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, IN. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

Entering the season with a relatively inexperienced roster and facing doubts from analysts and fans alike, the Pacers showcased their potential by securing a playoff berth, a testament to their growth and determination.

Led by the All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton and a supporting cast of talented young players, the Pacers displayed a brand of basketball that emphasized teamwork, athleticism and a relentless attitude. Their ability to share the ball, spread the floor, create scoring opportunities and play tenacious defense made them a formidable opponent.

More news: Pacer mangle Knicks in the Garden

Game 3 between the Milwaukee Bucks and Indiana Pacers, first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs, on April 26, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo was taken by Senior Sports Photographer Walt Thomas for the Indianapolis Recorder.
Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) with a flashy pass while Milwaukee Bucks point guard Damian Lillard (0, green) keeps his eye on the ball during game 3 of the first round of the 2024 NBA Playoffs on April 26, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

Halfway through the regular season, the Pacers traded forward Bruce Brown, who won a championship with the Denver Nuggets in 2023, and acquired Pascal Siakam, who won a championship with the Toronto Raptors in 2019. 

In the first round of the playoffs, the Pacers faced the Milwaukee Bucks, a seasoned team favored to win the series. However, the Pacers surprised many by upsetting the Bucks in a thrilling six-game series, marking their first series win since 2014. 

Despite the victory sending shockwaves throughout the NBA, the series win seemingly did not solidify the Pacers’ status as a legitimate contender just yet. 

New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers, Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, on May 12, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana. Photo taken by Walt Thomas.
Multiple Pacers and Knicks player attempting to box one another out for the rebound during Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals between the New York Knicks and the Indiana Pacers on May 12, 2024 at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis, IN. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

The Pacers continued their impressive playoff run in the second round, facing the New York Knicks. Despite falling behind 0-2 in the series, the Pacers rallied back with back-to-back blowout wins in Games 6 and 7, securing their spot in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2014.

More news: Pacers bench storms Bucks, advances to playoffs semis

Not one analyst picked the Pacers to win the Eastern Conference Semifinals, something Pacers forward Myles Turner mentioned after the series. 

“No one (picked the pacers to win the playoffs series),” Turner said. “I have picture proof.” 

Next was the Eastern Conference Finals, where the Pacers faced the Celtics, a team known for its strong defense and experienced roster. The Pacers ultimately fell short, losing the series in four games. 

Eastern Conference Finals MVP Jaylen Brown commended the Pacers for their resilience following Game 3 of the series. 

Pat McAfee during a NBA playoffs game between the Pacers and Celtics
Former Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee gets the crowd revved up before the start of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Boston Celtics and Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on May 24, 2024. (Photo/Walt Thomas)

“Some of those guys turned into Michael Jordan,” Brown said, referring to Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard’s career-high 32-point outing.

The Pacers’ bench was also a huge component is the team getting so deep into the playoffs, outscoring multiple teams thanks to the play of T.J. McConnell, Obi Toppin, Ben Sheppard and many others.

Some fans believe that if Pacers forward Bennedict Mathurin was not out for the season with a shoulder injury, the team would have made the 2024 NBA Finals.

Despite this, the Pacers’ playoff run was nothing short of extraordinary, considering the low expectations placed upon them at the start of the season in October of last year. 

While their journey ended in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Pacers’ achievements should not be discounted. They made franchise history and captured the hearts of fans with their high-octane brand of basketball. 

More news: improving the Pacers’ defensive identity

One Pacers fan, Chris Karimu, who attended more than a dozen games this year, believes the future looks bright for the young team.

“I am proud of the Pacers. They went way further than many of us thought they would,” Karimu said. “A lot of this postseason felt like extra credit for the team and fans. They are going to come back hungry and healthy next year.”

Contact multi-media and senior sports reporter Noral Parham at 317-762-7846 or via email at noralp@indyrecorder.com. Follow him on X @3Noral. For more Indiana Pacers playoffs news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, visit our archives.

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