My top three are the 1999-2000, 97-98, and 03-04 teams.
My top three are the 1999-2000, 97-98, and 03-04 teams.
97-98 was probably the best from top to bottom, but 99-00 got further than any other team. Those two are above all else, IMO.
here is my order and I always just use the year in which the season ends.
1998 - Bird's first year.
2000 - Finals team
1995 - Brown's second year
1999 - lockout shortened season
2004 - we know what happened here
1994 - Brown's first year
2012 - probably so
I think the '98 team was better than the 2000 team for several reasons. The 2000 team did not have AD, Smits was really slowing down, McKey was slowing down. Only player that was better in 2000 than in 1998 was Jalen. Cro replaced AD in 2000
1) 97-98 - Almost beat the bulls...SHOULD have beat them. Team was full of veterans and just clicking on all cylinders. DEEP bench.
2) 99-00 - Made it to the finals...although this was the beginning of the east decline so 97-98 is more impressive. Nearly lost to MIL in 1st round too.
3) 93-94 - Had a 3-2 lead in the ECF against the Knicks. Really blew game 7. Year of the choke sign.
4) 94-95 - Finally beat the Knicks ... only to lose to the Magic in the ECF in 7
5) 03-04 - Best Record in the league of 61 wins. One of the weakest years in league history for the East though and we still couldn't take advantage.
6) 98-99 - Disappointing year coming off of the 97-98 season, but still made it to the ECF losing in a big upset to the Knicks
7) 11-12 - Took the league by surprise with the 5th best record - lost to the eventual champions Miami heat in 2nd round after a 2-1 lead
I'd say '98 and '04 were two best hands down. As far as which one was better I like to take Reggie out of the equation and then consider the matchups. '04 bench led by baby Al and Anthony Johnson probably trumps Travis Best and Jalen Rose but Tony Davis puts '98 bench pretty far ahead of '04. Sorry Scott Pollard and Kenny Anderson. Starters you have to give a big advantage to Mark Jackson over Tinjury. Artest would straight beast Chris Mullin. JO has a fairly large advantage over DD but Smits would have the advantage over Foster. If I put them in a game of two on two, I think JO and Jeff would probably get the slight edge over Smits and DD. So Just at this stage I'd give a comfortable edge to '98. Now factor in '98 Reggie vs '04 Reggie and I think '98 is the clear winner.
And as a diehard fan I watched both those seasons very closely the 2000 team was just a lot weaker in many ways. Smits was a LOT better in '98 as was Mullin and Jackson. It really was a surprise 2000 was the year they ended up finally getting to the finals they looked pretty over the hill at times during the season, especially Smits, Mullin, and Perkins. If Travis Best wouldn't have hit that 3 in game 5 of the Milwaukee series that team wouldn't even be in this discussion. The Pacers were a lot older and slower in 2000 that team was on its last leg ... The east was also obviously weaker in 2000 vs 1998.
As far as the 2003-04 team I'm not as big of a fan as some of that team. I never bought into JO being a franchise player and Artest was too unpredictable. Miller was really old and Tinsley wasn't playing like he was as a rookie. Keep in mind how weak the east was that year. There were only FOUR teams in the conference with a winning record...FOUR. And one of those four was 42-40. The Pacers played a 36 win celtic team in the 1st round and a 41 win team in the second round. The east was a joke that year. Don't get me wrong they were good, but not as good as their record indicates.
Talent wise 03-04 is probably the best. 97-98 though is not that far behind, and had a huge mental edge which is what makes them superior.
93-94. That team had great size and physical toughness. They defended, rebounded the basketball and out toughed/worked people. Team was just too inexperienced at playoff basketball and a veteran Knick's squad snuck past them. The next year was almost as good but the P's were unlucky and caught Penny Hardaway at the peak of his 3-year relevancy.
When they brought in Mark Jackson in 95 and later Eddie Johnson, Pierce, Mullin etc. to beef up the offense the paradigm changed and not in a good way. Throw in the injuries that started to happen with Workman, Smits, McKey etc and that team got way softer than most Pacer fans want to admit. I loved the 98 -2000 version of the team but they got slapped around in big playoff series way too often. The fourth quarter collapse on the defensive boards against the bulls in game 7 or the last two games against the Knicks in 99 were very hard to take when you think about it in the context of how the 94-95 team would have handled those situations.
Yeah, that was a must win given the history of teams down 3-1, but I don't buy the whole "never really in any danger" thing. Why do other teams get credit for playing hard and losing close games but whenever the Pacers do it their opponents were somehow just toying with them?
The 2003-2004 team was a great team. I never really liked JO either, but they had solid play at every position and they had a chance to go up 2-0 if it wasn't for "The Block" aka "The Goaltend" by Prince and if that's a made basket, the Pacers win the series and get a chance at revenge vs Kobe, Shaq, and the Lakers.
Pacers got done in on the offensive glass by the Lakers guards in 2000 just like the Bulls series in 98.
You have mentioned twice now in this thread for all of us to remember that the East was very weak that year. But, I think I need to remind you of one very important FACT. The Pacers had a better winning percentage against Western Division teams than any team in the West had against its own conference. We weren't just a powerhouse in our own conference, we were Kings of the entire league, no matter how you chose to break down the W-L records.
That was the year of "Rasheed Wallace" being the "X factor". I felt like the Pacers would win it all, even though there was not much distance between the Pistons and the Pacers. The minute that Detroit was basically gifted Wallace before the trade deadline, the Pacers were going to have a tough time getting out of the EC. And that proved to be the case.
But make no mistake. For the entire regular season, the Pacers were the class of the league, regardless of whether the EC was a relatively weak conference.
i am in the camp that says the 97-98 squad is the best ever. i'd say without a doubt they were better than the finals team. like others have mentioned, rik had slowed down significantly by the finals year as his feet were killing him. 97-98 (his all-star season) was the last year before they got him and it really showed in the 98-99 season. throw in the fact we also had A.D. who was a really great guy to have. he could play the pf/c spots quite well. kind of like dale but he could hit a 10-17 foot jumper too.
mullin was slow but not as slow as he got before he left and was still a deadly shooter and jackson gets my vote as the best pg we have had in the nba.
that squad was well balanced it just lacked a truly premier individual capable scorer. rose was good but not an elite level.
1998. That team didn't have a bench! It basically had two starting units! So deep and so balanced!
That 1998 series vs Bulls in the ECF is one of the greatest series I've ever seen. Probably the two best teams that year in the league went back and forth after each other for 7 games and the series had many hall of famers in it as well. I can say the 1998 team would probably match up better against the other teams