The Pacers look to knock off the defending champion Miami Heat in tonight’s series-deciding Game 7.
Few had the foresight to predict a seven-game series coming into the conference finals considering the Pacers’ recent playoff history.
Fans at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, though, they are an exception. They’ve remained confident in the Pacers’ ability to beat the Heat.
Loud, supportive crowds have shown up throughout the series — something that has been far too uncommon in recent seasons.
From 2005 to 2010 the Pacers attendance ranked no higher than 27th in the NBA. This was a statement from basketball-knowledgeable Hoosiers that they would not lend support to a team that didn’t deserve it.
Great, it worked. For several years, talk of the Pacers leaving Indiana and constant reminders of mediocrity on the court kept fans and the organization in a grudge match.
Despite impressive playoff series in each of the Pacers’ last two seasons, fans won’t open their arms to a team that is as easy to embrace as any.
It’s time for that to change. Fans aren’t fooling anyone but themselves at this point.
The roster is full of young, hard-working and humble players that have proven they can compete with the best of the best.
Paul George, a future superstar, is as sincere off the court as he is talented on it. Roy Hibbert has established himself as a dominant center, but still expresses a need to improve.
The fiery head coach Frank Vogel ties everything together. He encapsulates the spirit of his young, quietly confident team.
In 2012, the Pacers were 17th in attendance, despite having the Eastern Conference’s third-best record.
What’s the excuse now? Off-court issues are a thing of the past, and the team’s ability has been made evident.
The Heat suffered just three losses over its last 39 games of the regular season ... the same number Indiana has handed them in this series.
There is no question that fans have played a critical part in the team’s victories over Miami.
LeBron James has been visibly frustrated in two of the Pacers’ three home games as he fouled out of Game 4, and received a momentum-shifting technical Game 6 after aggressively sprinting the length of the court in response to being called for an offensive foul.
Sellout crowds have bellowed chants of “beat the Heat,” “he’s a flopper” and “built not bought.” Indiana’s fans are at least two things: smart and loud. They know when to chant, what to chant and who to chant at.
They have shown up when it counted most.
After Indiana won Game 6, fans filled the main concourse, eager to spot Shaquille O’Neal and Charles Barkley on TNT’s live-broadcast stage.
That excitement continued through the evening as fans floated cheerfully along the streets of downtown Indianapolis.
Euphoric drivers honked their horns, while pedestrians could be seen high-fiving, and heard echoing chants of “beat the Heat.”
Small Pacers’ crowds would regularly file out of the building often giving no indication that its home-team had just won (something they did often, going 30-11 at home) through the regular season.
Whether the Pacers are eliminated in Game 7, or they defeat Miami and go on to become world champions, fans need to support this team.
Regular-season or playoffs, they’re special and worth supporting.
With that being said, I have a feeling that tonight’s game won’t be the last fans see of Indiana this postseason.