Few Believe Pacers Can Pass 70-Win Mark

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST — One team in the history of the NBA can claim 70 wins in a single season. One.

The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls. A perfect storm of personnel, circumstance, timing and luck produced the league’s greatest season ever: 72 wins and 10 losses followed with a championship. It was Michael Jordan in his full return from baseball out to reconquer basketball. The preposterous Dennis Rodman propped up the big top and Phil Jackson pulled the strings as only the Zen Master can.

Can 70 happen again? Could another perfect storm be brewing 18 years later for another team from the Midwest? The hot-starting Indiana Pacers are young, athletic, talented, confident, well-coached and united. They might not have M.J., but they do play in the egregious Eastern Conference.

One member of the 72-win Bulls says forget about it.

“It’s never going to happen again,” said longtime NBA sharpshooter Steve Kerr, now a TNT analyst.

Kerr quickly made clear that his adamancy is not rooted in some 1972 Miami Dolphins-style pop-the-champagne bravado that annually celebrates the continuance of a legacy upon the present failures of others.

“It’s not that,” Kerr said. “It’s virtually impossible to win 70. I think everything had to come perfectly together for that Bulls team. But mainly it’s Michael Jordan, on a great team already, winning 10 games on his own during that season that he wouldn’t let us lose. It’s a feat that is so difficult because you have to factor in everything: injuries, fatigue, luck — and I just don’t see it ever happening again.”

VIDEO: Top 10 plays from The 1996 Finals

It almost did the very next season. The Bulls were 69-11 with two games to go. They lost 102-92 at Miami, and then 103-101 in the finale at home against New York. Jordan scored 33 points in 39 minutes. Four other Bulls starters scored 37.

A handful of other teams have come close. But near-misses only demonstrate the near-impossibility of winning better than 85 percent of the time during an 82-game schedule spanning five-and-a-half months. The 1971-72 Lakers won 33 games in a row, yet topped out at 69 wins. The 66-67 Sixers and 72-73 Lakers each won 68. Four teams have won 67 (85-86 Celtics, 91-92 Bulls, 99-00 Lakers, 06-07 Mavericks), four have won 66 (70-71 Bucks, 07-08 Celtics, 08-09 Cavaliers, 12-13 Heat) and three more have won 65 (82-83 Sixers, 86-87 Lakers, 08-09 Lakers).

The Pacers have never won more than 61. They’re currently 17-2 — the same record as the 72-win Bulls nearly a quarter through the season — and with a plus-10.2 differential, Indiana is picking apart most opponents. Like those Bulls, the Pacers rank No. 1 in defensive rating (although unlike those Bulls’ No. 1 offensive rating, Indiana is smack in the middle, 15th). Paul George is playing phenomenally. Seven-foot-2 center Roy Hibbert takes patrolling the paint as personally as anybody. David West is a leadership rock. They are deep. They are team-oriented. And after taking the Heat to seven games in last season’s East finals, they’ve assumed the steely-eyed glare and fierce facade of a team on a mission.

High level of concentration

VIDEO: Paul George collects Kia Player of the Month honors for November

The 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks did, too. That team won 67 games and were 61-11 with 10 games to go. They were furious (if not humiliated) after blowing a 2-0 lead and losing to the Heat in six games in the 2006 Finals. A summer hangover bled into an 0-4 start. Then Dallas and Dirk Nowitzki, in his lone MVP season, roasted the rest of the league with win streaks of 12, 13 and 17 games. With the No. 1 seed in hand, then-coach Avery Johnson eased off the gas and the Mavs finished up those last 10, 6-4.

“We were extremely focused,” said Devin Harris, a reserve point guard on that team. “We had a high level of concentration for long periods of time.”

Harris believes the Mavs win 70 that season had they snapped out of their post-Finals fog before the season started. Nowitzki, who saw these Pacers twice in the preseason, gives them at least a puncher’s chance.

“The Pacers have a great team. They’re tough, they’re long and they’ve got playmakers,” Nowitzki said. “Paul George took the next step to an absolute superstar level. They’ve got shooters, they’ve got inside presence with Hibbert, they’ve got shotmakers, so they’re a very, very good team.

“And,” Nowitzki reminded, “they play in the East. So maybe they can do it.”

Yes, the woebegone East, where only the Pacers and Heat are above .500, is a significant ingredient in a potential perfect storm. Indiana is 12-1 against its intraconference foes. The defeat, the Pacers’ first after a 9-0 start, came at Chicago before the Bulls lost Derrick Rose for the season.

The next five days should deliver strong signals whether 70 can be real or is simply a whimsical story line tossed into the breeze weeks before even Christmas arrives: The Pacers play the last two West champs, at San Antonio (15-3) on Saturday and at Oklahoma City (13-4) on Sunday; then return home Tuesday for the first of four regular-season meetings against the hated Heat (14-4).

After that the Pacers’ next 16 includes 13 against the East — 10 against sub-.500 clubs, two at .500 and a big one at Miami (Dec. 18); plus three against the West with Houston (Dec. 20) being the only one above .500.

“Is it possible?” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle asked rhetorically of winning 70. “You would have to take advantage of a year like this year; the East so far hasn’t been strong. So it would have to be a team coming out of the East.”

As sensationally as the Blazers — who beat Indiana in a tremendous game on Monday — Spurs and Thunder have started, seemingly unanimous agreement suggests no West team could possibly navigate the conference’s mine field to 70. As for the two-time champs from the East, even with the greatest player in the game, LeBron James, Miami is coming off three consecutive seasons playing into June. Dwyane Wade‘s iffy knees likely means he’ll sporadically miss games throughout the season as he did Tuesday against Detroit. On those nights the Heat will become more vulnerable to losses such as the one the Pistons, a team with a sub-.500 record, handed them on their home floor.

Pie in the sky?

Carlisle was a reserve forward on the 67-win Celtics in 1985-86. He coached under Larry Bird at Indiana and later coached the Pacers for four seasons, leading them to the franchise’s lone 60-win campaign in 2003-04. Carlisle remains close to Bird, now the Pacers’ team president and the man responsible for the current roster.

“I would say the CBA now, the way it’s geared toward equality in terms of talent and money spent, based on that premise it would be very unlikely that somebody could win 70 games,” Carlisle said. “But since the East is down this year — I mean I don’t think Indiana will do it, it’s just hard.”

But, Carlisle continued …

“It’s not impossible. A must is you would have to have a great defensive team because you’re going to lose some games just on shot-making being up or down, and it’s going to be down some nights. But they are as consistent defensively the last two years as any team I’ve seen since Chicago back in the 90s when they really had it going.

“So it would have to be a great defensive team. Miami’s the same way. But you’re talking about pie-in-the-sky.”

The Heat won 27 consecutive games last season and finished with 66 wins. Miami’s loss to Detroit provided a shining example why so many things must go right to even have a shot at 70 by the time March, let alone April rolls around. A team with a target on its back every night, and on Tuesday night without Wade, Miami simply couldn’t dial up the energy to get what on paper was a game they “should” win. The Pacers wear a target now, too.

The 72-win Bulls did a remarkable job of this. They lost only four times to teams that finished the season .500 or below. Only once did they trip over a true doormat — a 109-108 late March loss to the 21-61 Toronto Raptors. The Pacers earned win No. 17 by narrowly escaping such a defeat Wednesday night at Utah, the West’s last-place team at 4-16.

The Pacers now must go 53-10 the rest of the way.

“That’s just it,” said Kerr, who predicts the Pacers will finish with around 60 wins. “In the NBA, everybody has talent, even the bad teams have talent. The Knicks have lost nine in a row, and the Pacers really should have lost to the Knicks [on Nov. 20]. If [Iman] Shumpert doesn’t foul George on that 3 (with 5.2 seconds left in regulation), the Knicks win that game.

“Over 82 games, there’s just so many nights like that where a team gets hot, there’s an injury, there’s foul trouble, whatever it is, there’s just too many variables, and why I don’t think it will ever happen again.”

VIDEO: NBA Action looks at the Pacers’ hot start to 2013-14


  1. Rj says:

    This is what happened if teams piled up stars and superstars..the leage is less competitive and other teams looks mediocre.. It may have competitve games every night if star players are spread througout the league’s team.kenny smith suggestion was soo right that the league standings should make the playoffs is the the team 1 to 8 only ,no east or west conference just the top 8 of the entire league

  2. ASO says:

    I don’t think they’ll be able to reach 70-wins. I see them winning 60-65 games. Honestly I’d prefer a championship over a 70-win season anytime. Even though they play in the very weak eastern conference, they still have to play games against the west which is no walk in the park as shown by their loss to the Blazers and every now and then there will be games when everything is just going wrong, shots won’t fall and breaks of the game will favor the opponent. Those are the reason I don’t see them winning 70 games.

  3. I’m a HUGE Pacers fan so Nobody can top that

  4. angel m says:

    Indiana pacers not play yet with the big teams please is early to know if indiana go in to win 70 games shut and look Miami is going to win in the east no matter what in playoff is the time u see who going to win,Miami got a great chance.. beasley is doing good and oden we hope in the finals game of the season he get the lebron touch..lol..but indiana is a great team but not the best team yet…Go MIAMI HEAT 3pt….LEBRON JAMES I BELIEVE IN U..IS UR ERA…IS TIME TO WITNESS …Who is MIAMI TEAM…

  5. Rick V says:

    Will the Pacers win 70 or more? As a long time Pacer fan I would love to see that happen but it is not exactly the end result I want to see. I want to see tha NBA championship banner hanging in the rafters in Indy. I now live on Florida but if that happens I will make a point to take a trip to see it.

  6. JDL says:

    If the Pacers traded George Hill and a 1st round pick to Boston for Rondo then they would be unstoppable!!!

  7. Hugh says:

    I could care less if they win 70…..I just hope they don’t win 72 or more. Gotta have something as a Bulls’ fan these days to hold on to. LOL

  8. GL says:

    Did anyone see Pippen at number 4? It took him 2 dribbles for the dunk from the other team’s 3 point line.

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    I think 60 wins is a good estimate but it’s too early really. Saying no team will win 70 again though is unrealistic, plenty of sports records have been broken that nobody thought would it happen.

  10. Maoriplayer says:

    It’s funny they seem to be knocking the east as weak and to be honest it has been so far, but every team in the east is stronger than last year the CBA finally seems to be kicking in with minor stars spread everywhere now which means on any givin night any team can bring it, pacers definatly been impressive heat struggle to get up against sub .500 teams which lets them down on getting to that 70 mark but the difference is the heat always get up against good teams. After this week we will really see where the pacers are, as a heat fan pacers scare the hell outa me this season for sure!

  11. Daine says:

    haha they’ve barely played anybody with a record over .500 and your asking can they win 70?? no way jack.

  12. Drew says:

    This is silly. People think winning 70 games in an NBA season comes so easy. last year miami had a 27 game win streak and still couldnt reach 70 wins. They have to be like early 90’s bulls, which btw they are not. This is just crazy talk, come on NBA, please!

  13. kenny says:

    problemy not but as long as the leage doesn’t screw them they will beat the heat and make it to the finals possibly championship

  14. Fast Pace says:

    no way they will will 70 games…they will win 74 games

  15. TD Touch Down says:

    No team will win 72 games again. The Pacers better have Home cout advantage thoughout the playoff to even think about wining a NBAchampionship. And they task at hand is to be ready to deal with the HEAT (Good Luck with that). We shall see what this young team does.

  16. LBJKIN6JAMES says:

    They wont win 70, they’ll slow down soon

  17. James says:

    Off topic somewhat: With all this east coast being weak, there should be a reformat to the playoffs. As of right now there are 4 teams .500 and over in the east. The west has 12. Those are the 16 teams that should be in the playoffs. Who cares about flights being too expensive, etc. Give us the 16 best teams. not 12 and 4 lucky ones. Leaving 4 teams that deserve a chance at upsetting for a title, at home. Who wants to see the Pacers slap the Bobcats into Hornets? I’d rather see say… the Pacers face the Lakers/Pelicans/Suns/Grizzles

  18. curry says:

    miami pacers best in the west and spurs okc thunder and clippers best in east

  19. This team seems like Piston´s 2005 cuz they have five stars players.

  20. underdog says:

    yes they can.. much like how Miami got 66 Wins last season and NYK was 2nd in the East with 54 wins.. because the East is so bad.. especially this season

  21. Neb says:

    That’s just silly… We could elaborate on that if they had a 50-5 record already, not after 20 games…

  22. Gerald says:

    No Pacer fan gives a damn about 70 wins. They want home court throughout the playoffs and a title. Sick to death of seeing big-market teams with their star-dominated ISO teams gtetting glorified to hell and back. This Pacer team plays TEAM basketball, basketball the way it SHOULD be played. If they win it all, maybe people will realize ball-hogging chuckers like Carmelo anthony and Kobe Bryant aren’t the only way to win a title, and that DEFENSE matters!

    • Cletus Jackson says:

      Dude….when did Carmelo Anthony win a title?? Are you one of the millions duped by the media into thinking that Carmelo is great? He hasn’t accomplished anything since college. Wake up.

  23. Brent says:

    Wouldn’t 70+ wins guarantee the Pacers home court?

    I don’t think they’ll get that many wins but that said, I disagree with Steve Kerr. A team will come along one day that does win 70+ games again.

  24. LeapingLillards says:

    They are a solid team, but this is ridiculous talk. They have played two games against teams over .500, and won one, yes one game. In the last three games they had their struggles with two west-cellar teams (Utah and Sac) and lost to Portland. I don’t think this team gets more than 64 wins but I see more like 62.

    • flashback89 says:

      Actually it wasn’t Sac, but it was the clippers in LA and they won, and I believe your blazers have some easy wins against some sub 500 teams as well so I really don’t think you have room to talk. You beat a team once, doesn’t mean you will do it again In indiana or in Miami, or even in Chicago, OKC for that matter. Until portland wins another playoff series, their hot start doesn’t even matter. Aside from the top 3, the west isn’t as strong as it has been previously

      • JonJOhn says:

        Dude the blazers have played the nuggets, spurs, rockets, warriors, knicks, lakers, thunder, pacers. The Pacers have played the blazers and the clippers… YOU have no room to talk. “the west isn’t as strong…” and the east is? Ok….

  25. B-Baller says:

    70 games? How many games have they played against the west??? My Blazers took them down and according to “the professions” the Blazers wouldn’t even make the playoffs this year. How about an article about them. Indianna hasn’t proven themselves. 60 wins max, but they still lose to Miami.

  26. PalmOil Preference says:

    Pacers should be keeping thier eye on home court. Not 70 wins. Home out will help thier odds of going to the final.

  27. Romeo Aguirre says:

    I like this team I think they are the most complete team in the nba I think they will win it all this year if not they will make it to the finals.