The Indiana Pacers and the Chicago Bulls meet for the second time this season on Saturday night, with Indiana already up 1-0 in their regular season series. This Central Division rivalry has heated up since the 1990s… when Michael Jordan and Reggie Miller led their teams in some of the most epic matchups in NBA history.
While Derrick Rose seems to be the odd man out in believing that the Bulls and Pacers aren’t rivals, this battle marks every checkmark on the list of what makes a true rivalry:
• Geographic location: The fact that they are in the same division and just a three-hour drive in-between home courts provides several opportunities for this rivalry to be displayed on the court, whether it’s during the regular or postseason.
• Similar style of play: The Bulls and Pacers might be the closest mirror of each as far as playing style. Both emphasize defense and physicality. Each has athletic wing players (Rose, Jimmy Butler, Lance Stephenson, Paul George), defensive anchors in the post (Roy Hibbert, Joakim Noah), and power forwards that love the midrange (David West, Carlos Boozer).
• History: This must be checked off on the list to make it a genuine rivalry. The two teams in a true rivalry must have historical significance that makes their fans still debate games from the past. The Bulls and Pacers have this with one of the most memorable and compelling rivalries of the 1990s. Jordan’s brilliance in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals still haunts Pacers fans, just as Reggie Miller’s antics and clutch shots are still in the nightmares of Bulls fans.
Speaking of the history of this rivalry, let’s look back at the five greatest moments of the 1990s rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers (any excuse to do so is always welcomed). While the rivalry faded in the 2000s, it made its reappearance in the 2011 Playoffs, and is poised to get back into full-swing this season. The moments on this list will boost any fan’s nostalgia of some of the best basketball performances of any era. After all, this ’90s rivalry surrounded one of the best shooters to ever grace the court versus the best player to ever play the game.
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5. The Bulls Shut Reggie Miller Up in 1991
In March of 1991, Reggie Miller had one of his greatest performances in his then-young career when he put up 40 points in the Pacers’ big win over the Bulls. In very Reggie-like fashion, he declared afterward that the Bulls were nothing without Michael Jordan. After the Pacers’ rather convincing win in March of 1991, Miller had the following to say about their Central Division rivals:
“Trade Michael Jordan off their team and who have they got over there? Nobody. Michael Jordan makes their team and justifiably so, because he’ s probably the greatest player in the game right now.”
Needless to say, the hype for their next matchup skyrocketed. After competing throughout their next matchup, the Pacers eventually lost total control of the game with the ejections of Detlef Schrempf and Chuck Person, who infamously drop kicked the ball about 30 rows up in the stands. Michael Jordan scored 39 points on 15-for-25 shooting in 40 minutes of action. Miller’s comments earlier in the month were in the minds of Jordan’s teammates as they combined to add 94 points to Jordan’s 39. The Pacers still recorded 119 points, led by Miller’s 34, but the Bulls were in higher gear all night. This Bulls victory marked their record 26th straight home win in the 1990-91 season.