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Indiana Pacers Betting Outlook
Eastern Conference Odds: +2400
Preseason NBA Championship Odds: +4600
Indiana didn’t make many personnel changes heading into the 2020-21 campaign, hoping that health and a new head coach will make the difference. After losing Victor Oladipo prior to the 2019 playoffs, the Pacers had another All-Star, Domantas Sabonis, miss the 2020 postseason, so Indiana has yet to have all of its stars completely healthy at the same time.
Nate Bjorkgren will be the team’s head coach and will try to keep the team’s defense solid. With Sabonis, Oladipo, TJ Warren and Malcolm Brogdon, there is plenty of scoring, and Myles Turner provides some interior defense for the team. The Pacers have lost in the first round of the playoffs the last five seasons, so just making the postseason isn’t going to be enough for this squad.
Pacers 2021 Predictions
Regular-Season Record: 37-35
Conference Standing: Eighth
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Oladipo is well-respected and should be back healthy after a horrific leg injury sidelined him for more than a year. When he’s 100 percent, Oladipo is a dangerous scorer and solid defender, considered one of the best all-around players in the league. How well his leg is healed will determine his ability to produce on the offensive end, but he will be a team leader either way.
Sabonis developed into an All-Star, combining outside shooting with solid play inside and a rare passing touch for a big man. His father, Arvydas Sabonis, is in the Basketball Hall of Fame after a long playing career overseas and in the NBA, and the younger Sabonis is developing many of the same qualities on the court. Sabonis’ ability to work inside offensively will be key with so many other scorers on the perimeter.
Indiana Pacers Injuries
Indiana Pacers Team History
The Indiana Pacers were one of the original franchises in the American Basketball Association, dominating until it merged with the NBA in 1976. Larry Staverman was the team’s first coach, leading the team to the postseason with a 38-40 record in the franchise’s first year in existence, but after a 2-7 start to his second season, he was replaced by Slick Leonard.
With players like Mel Daniels, George McGinnis and Rick Mount leading the way, Leonard took the Pacers to the ABA finals five times, winning championships in 1970, 1972 and 1973. Leonard stayed with the team during the move to the NBA, but things were much harder in the new league, as the Pacers missed the playoffs in their first four seasons.
Jack McKinney was named head coach prior to the 1980-81 season and led Indiana to its first postseason appearance in the NBA, though it would be a first-round loss. The Pacers didn’t make the playoffs again until 1986-87 under Jack Ramsey, and in the 1987 draft, the team selected guard Reggie Miller out of UCLA.
Miller emerged as the team’s star, becoming one of the league’s best 3-point shooters as well as one of the biggest trash talkers. Center Rik Smits, the No. 2 pick in the 1988 NBA Draft, developed into an All-Star, and players like Dale Davis, Antonio Davis, Mark Jackson and Derrick McKey helped turn the Pacers into a perennial playoff team.
Indiana made the playoffs four straight seasons starting in 1989-90 but lost in the first round each season. Prior to the 1993-94 campaign, Larry Brown was named head coach, and the team’s 47 regular-season wins that year were the most by the franchise since joining the NBA.
The Pacers also reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time that season, losing to the New York Knicks in a classic battle that included Miller’s infamous trash-talking with Knicks superfan Spike Lee during a comeback win in Game 5 in Madison Square Garden. The win gave Indiana a 3-2 series edge, but it would ultimately lose the series in seven games.
The teams matched up in the Eastern Conference semifinals the following year, and the Pacers got some revenge, winning the series in seven to return to the Eastern Conference finals. Indiana fell to Orlando in the next series, though, then lost in the first round the following year. After a non-playoff season in 1996-97, Brown was replaced by Larry Bird as the team’s head coach.
The Pacers had immediate success under Bird, taking the Chicago Bulls to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals in Bird’s first season before losing, then losing to the Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals the following season. In 1999-2000, Indiana made the next step, advancing to the NBA Finals for the first time before losing to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
Bird resigned after the trip to the Finals (he’d only committed to three seasons of coaching), and Isiah Thomas took over.The team made the playoffs in all three of Thomas’ seasons but couldn’t advance past the first round. Rick Carlisle took over for the 2003-04 campaign, and the Pacers won a franchise-record 61 games, advancing to the Eastern Conference finals before losing to the Detroit Pistons.
The Pacers went to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2004-05, but after the season, Miller announced his retirement. After a 41-41 record and a first-round playoff loss in 2005-06, Indiana sunk below .500 in 2006-07, beginning a four-year string of missing the postseason.
The 2010-11 season was significant for a couple of reasons, with Paul George making his NBA debut after being drafted out of high school and Frank Vogel taking over as head coach with 38 games left in the season to help the team to their first playoff berth in five years. The Pacers advanced to the second round the next season, then made the Eastern Conference finals in back-to-back years, falling to the Miami Heat each time.
The team has yet to win another series after the last Eastern Conference finals loss. Vogel was let go after a 2015-16 first-round loss, opening the door for Nate McMillan to be named head coach. George forced his way out, getting a trade to the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2017. The Pacers made the playoffs in each of McMillan’s first three seasons but lost in the first round each time.
Five players who have worn the Pacers uniform are in the Basketball Hall of Fame, including McGinnis, Miller and Chris Mullin. Leonard, Brown and Jack Ramsay are all former Pacers head coaches that are in the Hall of Fame.
The Pacers went into the 2019-20 season hoping to improve on four straight first-round playoff losses and praying for the healthy return of guard Oladipo, the All-Star guard who had suffered a horrific knee injury early in the 2018-19 campaign. Oladipo did make his return to the court in January, though he wasn’t quite back to form. The team itself started well behind the play of forward Sabonis and newly acquired TJ Warren and Malcolm Brogdon, sitting at 31-17 midway through January.
A six-game losing streak in January was the biggest hiccup for the team, which was 39-26 when the NBA had to pause the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Indiana joined the NBA bubble in Orlando and went 6-2 in its final eight regular-season games to earn the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs despite not having Sabonis due to a foot injury. The Pacers could not put it together in the postseason, though, getting swept by the Miami Heat in the first round, leading to the dismissal of head coach Nate McMillan.
Bjorkgren became the 16th head coach of the Indiana Pacers prior to the 2020-21 season, his first head coaching job in the NBA. Bjorkgren began his coaching career at the high school level, then became an assistant coach under Nick Nurse for the expansion D League team, the Iowa Energy. After helping the Energy to a D League title, Bjorkgren spent time as the head coach of three different D League teams before being named an assistant coach with the Phoenix Suns for the 2015-16 season.
Bjorkgren lasted two seasons with Phoenix before moving to the Toronto Raptors, being named an assistant when Nurse became the team’s head coach for the 2018-19 season. The two teamed for the franchise’s first NBA title that year. Bjorkgren was then hired as the Pacers’ head coach after the team fired Nate McMillan following the 2019-20 campaign.
Nate Bjorkgren, head coach
Nate McMillan, head coach
Cassius Stanley, guard, Duke
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