There are well over 100 offensive possessions in an NBA game and the Pacers have been playing games for 53 seasons now. So, you can only imagine how many times their versions of a team have brought the ball upcourt and tried to score a basket.
Hundreds of thousands of times. Playoffs included, it would have to be well over half a million. And yet, as crazy as it sounds, one stands alone as the best. Not only for execution, but for impact.
Travis Best's three-pointer with 16.5 seconds left in Game 5 (out of five) of their first-round playoff series with Milwaukee on May 4, 2000 ignited their one and only run to the NBA Finals. It stands as the biggest shot in franchise history, and it so happens it came at the conclusion of a peerless possession, a clinic of halfcourt execution under extreme pressure.
Take a look:
Want to debate the point? Good luck.
The Pacers have won three ABA championships, but none of them hung on the balance of one shot in a playoff game that, if missed, would have eliminated them. They also have had plenty of big moments in the playoffs, most of them courtesy of Roger Brown and Reggie Miller, but none of their most memorable shots came in an elimination game and none were part of a possession that so strongly influenced the outcome of a game, not to mention a series.
Byron Scott hit a game-winning three-pointer in a first-round series in 1994, one that stood as the franchise's biggest shot until Best trumped it. But it came in the first game of a series, not the last, and the Pacers would have had plenty of time to recover if they had lost.
Miller's 25-point fourth quarter in '94? That was an onslaught, not a possession. And the Pacers lost the series.
Miller scoring eight points in 8.9 seconds? Even if his consecutive three-pointers are conveniently considered as one, they came in Game 4 of a second-round series that went seven games, and the Pacers went on to lose in the conference finals.
Miller's banked 35-footer at the buzzer (after, actually) to force overtime at New Jersey in 2002? That was in Game 1 of an opening-round series the Pacers lost.
The choice is obvious. Best's shot, which was the turning point of a one-point victory, is best. And even if it wasn't the biggest shot in franchise history, the possession that preceded it would stand out for it's artistry, being so rich in substance and detail.
It began with an offensive rebound, as memorable possessions often do. Best had missed a shot from the left wing but Dale Davis grabbed it right of the foul lane about 15 feet from the basket. He quickly flipped the ball to Miller, who faked a shot, drove along the baseline and passed the ball to Best in the left corner. Best immediately fired a pass to Jalen Rose out front. Rose took three strong dribbles down the left lane, drawing in Milwaukee's defense, and passed the ball back to a wide-open Best in the corner. The rest is his-story.
That sequence exhibited supreme movement and patience, the two primary features of a good possession, along with unselfishness and confidence. Four players touched the ball and four passes were made.
It also reflected a Sunday's worth of faith. Coach Larry Bird had shown faith in Best by keeping him in the game despite his cold shooting eye. Best showed faith in his teammates by passing the ball out to Rose after taking the pass from Miller, and Rose showed faith in Best by passing it back to him despite catching Miller in the corner of his eye as Miller ran out to the three-point line on the wing. Best ultimately showed faith in himself by erasing the memory of his 12 misses and calmly knocking down the shot with perfect form, even while a few of Milwaukee's bench players were shouting at him from within arm's length.
None of it happens, of course, if not for Davis' hustling rebound. And it wasn't the first time an offensive rebound had led to a great playoff moment for the Pacers. Scott's three-pointer in 1994 was set up by an offensive rebound. So was the three-pointer Miller hit to force overtime in a playoff game at Madison Square Garden in 1998, a game the Pacers went on to win.
But this one was a possession that had everything. And it meant everything to the Pacers.
Tagged with: Dale Davis, Jalen Rose, Reggie Miller, Travis Best