My first Pacers playoff game was game four of the first round in 1993.

The Pacers were a 7 seed and had lost by just three in the first game of the five game set to the Knicks.  They upset New York in game 3, and some friends and I decided we would head down to Market Square to get tickets to game four.

We walked up to the box office 5 minutes before the game and bought ticktes for about $10 each.  We sat near the top edge of the crowd, but there were still 20 or 30 empty rows at MSA above us.

The Pacers we watched were sort of a proto-version of the team that would make some incredible runs very soon.  Dale Davis and Rik Smits were in place, and of course Reggie Miller.  Reggie had become ‘our guy’ already.  He put up 30 points that night on 12 of 20 shooting.  My indelible memory is Doc Rivers beating the shot clock late in the third quarter with a 28-footer banked in for three.

The Pacers went on to lose that game in overtime, their fourth consecutive first round loss. 

That off-season Larry Brown and Antonio Davis came to Indianapolis, and Detlef Schremf was replaced by Derek McKey. The team finally came together, won 47 games and made the conference finals, losing to the Knicks again, but this time in 7 games.

I went on to go to many more playoff games over the next few years including game 6 of the ’98 Eastern Finals (Jordan falls down) and game four of the ’01 Finals (Best airballs and Kobe goes nuts).

The Pacers’ season ended last night, but I hope that very soon my stories from those other games become more relevant to the state of the team than the time I saw them lose in the first round.

Winning in the NBA is different than in other sports. It’s a process, and you have to pay your dues.

The Indiana Pacers lost to the Bulls in five games, but they just made a major down-payment on the future.