(US-EN) When is the last time Pacers went to NBA Finals? History of Indiana’s championship appearances


Dan Treacy

(US-EN) When is the last time Pacers went to NBA Finals? History of Indiana’s championship appearances image

The Pacers already faced an uphill climb against the 64-win Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Then they blew a late lead in Game 1 at TD Garden. Is there still a path for Indiana to reach the NBA Finals?

With a Game 7 win against the Knicks in the second round, the Pacers snapped a decade-long conference finals drought. Fans of the Big Three-era Heat might remember the Pacers as the biggest thorn in Miami's side during the latter portion of that run, as Paul George, Lance Stephenson and Roy Hibbert headlined an upstart Indiana team that came within one win of the Finals.

Nothing about the 2023-24 Pacers is the same as a decade ago, and even more has changed since the franchise's last NBA Finals appearance. Yet a new core is giving hope to Indiana fans, with an old twist in the form of coach Rick Carlisle.

Here's a look back at the Pacers' championship history, including their last trip to the NBA Finals.

MORE: How T.J. McConnell became Pacers' playoff hero

Pacers NBA Finals history

When is the last time the Pacers went to the NBA Finals?

The Pacers last reached the NBA Finals in 2000, when they were led by Reggie Miller, Jalen Rose and Mark Jackson. 

The 1999-20 Pacers went 56-26 under coach Larry Bird, but they faced a monstrous test against a 67-win Lakers team hungry for its first title of the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal era. Indiana quickly fell behind 2-0 in the series, but a Game 3 win at home breathed some life into the Pacers and brought them within three wins of a title.

The steep climb got even tougher when the Lakers took Game 4 in Indiana, and a blowout win by Indiana in Game 5 wasn't enough to seriously threaten Los Angeles' championship hopes. Bryant and O'Neal won their first title together in Game 6. 

Bryant's struggles kept the Pacers within striking distance in the series. The young superstar averaged 15.6 points per game and shot just 36.7% from the field.

That might have given the Pacers a window to win if they were able to even somewhat contain O'Neal. Instead, the dominant big man averaged 38.0 points and 16.7 rebounds across six games and tore Indiana's defense apart. O'Neal led the Lakers in scoring in all six games, posting two 30-20 games and announcing his presence with back-to-back games of at least 40 points to open the series.

Miller was on the verge of turning 35 by the time the Pacers reached the 2000 Finals, so Indiana's title window wasn't guaranteed to stay open much longer. Bird also resigned after the season, having promised he would coach for just three years.

The Pacers did retool their roster and nearly got back to the NBA Finals with a 61-win season in 2004 when they were coached by none other than Rick Carlisle. But they failed to return to the championship series.

This season, though, the journey continues for the small-market Pacers in the Tyrese Haliburton era, and their goal of another NBA Finals appearance remains alive.

Have the Pacers won a championship?

The Pacers haven't won an NBA championship since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger, though they did win ABA titles in 1970, 1972 and 1973. 

Pacers great George McGinnis helped lead the franchise to its latter two ABA titles, impressing as a rookie in 1971-92 and following it up by averaging 27.6 points per game in his second season. 

Indiana is one of 10 teams that has never won an NBA championship. One other is still active, as the Timberwolves are seeking their first title in franchise history.

The Celtics are one of the most storied franchises in NBA history and last won in 2008, while the Mavericks own the most recent championship among the conference finalists with their 2011 title.

MORE: How Tyrese Haliburton, Reggie Miller trolled Knicks after Game 7

Longest NBA Finals droughts

The Pacers haven't reached the NBA Finals in 24 years, but that's far from the NBA's longest drought. Five teams have never played in the NBA Finals, while eight more have droughts that extend longer than Indiana's. 

Here's a list of each team's last NBA Finals appearance: 

TeamLast NBA Finals AppearanceDrought
ClippersNeverN/A
TimberwolvesNeverN/A
GrizzliesNeverN/A
HornetsNeverN/A
PelicansNeverN/A
Kings195173 years
Hawks196163 years
Wizards197945 years
Trail Blazers199232 years
Rockets199529 years
Bulls199826 years
Jazz199826 years
Knicks199925 years
Pacers200024 years
76ers200123 years
Nets200321 years
Pistons200519 years
Magic200915 years
Mavericks201113 years
Thunder201212 years
Spurs201410 years
Cavaliers20186 years
Raptors20195 years
Lakers20204 years
Suns20213 years
Bucks20213 years
Celtics20222 years
Warriors20222 years
Heat20231 year
Nuggets20231 year

Dan Treacy


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Dan Treacy is a content producer for Sporting News, joining in 2022 after graduating from Boston University. He founded @allsportsnews on Instagram in 2012 and has written for Lineups and Yardbarker.