In 1987 NBA draft, the Pacers selected Reggie Miller. He started his NBA career as a 6th man for John Long. The team would miss the playoffs in 1987-88 season.
In the offseason, they drafted Rik Smits in the 1988 NBA draft and the team continue to struggle through the 1988-89 season in which they started 0-7 that resulted Jack Ramsay to resign. It was Dick Versace who took over the 6-23 record team as he finished the season 28-54. They traded Herb Williams for Detlef Schrempf who would be a 6th man of the year in the future.
For the 1993-94 season, they hired Larry Brown to coach the team. The Pacers’ had dealt a highly criticized trade that sent Schrempf to the Seattle Supersonics for Derrick McKey and Gerald Paddio. Although with the questionable trade, they had finished an NBA franchise-high of 47 wins.
They would also be qualified in the playoffs and won their first series in the playoffs against the Orlando Magic. They would also shock the Atlanta Hawks in the next round. Particularly in 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Reggie Miller became very famous because of his heroic and tremendous performances against the New York Knicks. One of his incredible performance was his 25 point 4th quarter rampage against the Knicks in game 5. But the Knicks would finish the Pacers off the playoffs.
They would acquire Mark Jackson in the offseason from the Los Angeles Clippers. Jackson provided the team his passing skills that the team was lacking from the previous seasons. The Pacers had their first 50-win season since their ABA years with 52-30 record.
They won their first Central Division title as they advanced through the playoffs. The played against the Hawks and swept them. The next round, was the highly anticipated rivalry series against the Knicks. Miller agains had amazing performances through the series as they won in seven games before being eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Larry Bird was hired by the Pacers to coach the team for the 1997-98 season. They finished the season with a franchise-high 58-24, a huge 19 game improvement from the previous season. Reggie Miller and Rik Smits were named in the Eastern Conference All-Star team. They defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks in the first two round until they faced the Chicago Bulls with a historical seven game Eastern Conference Finals where they would be later on eliminated.
In 1998-99, the season was shortened due to a labor agreement deal. The Pacers had a 33-17 record and won the Central Division title. They swept the first two rounds against the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers respectiveley. They lost against their rival New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference Finals in six games.
After the postseason, they had a very controversial trade that involves key player Antonio Davis for Jonathan Bender from the Toronto Raptors. They had a 56-26 season that time and won the first round of the postseason against the Bucks, eliminated the 76ers in the second round and finally won the Eastern Conference Finals over the Knicks. They played versus the Los Angeles Lakers and lost in six games.
The Pacers had dealt a blockbuster trade involving Jalen Rose and Travis Best going to the Chicago Bulls in exchange for Brad Miller, Ron Artest, Kevin Ollie and Ron Mercer. They would return to the playoffs with their deep roster as they lost against the New Jersey Nets in the first round in five games.