Fortunately for Stipanovich, he—unlike Sampson—is in a situation in which great expectations aren't focused on him and his team. That was painfully apparent during the season's opener Friday night in Milwaukee, a 104-83 loss in which Stipanovich had five points and five rebounds. But Herb Simon wasn't discouraged. "They just couldn't concentrate because they're too busy thinking about Saturday night," he said.
Against the 76ers, the Pacers jumped out to an 8-1 lead en route to a 29-22 edge at the quarter, a 54-49 margin at halftime and an 82-77 advantage after three quarters. Even when the Sixers came back to take a 106-103 lead with 14 seconds remaining in regulation, Johnson calmly canned a three-pointer to force the game into overtime.
It was at that juncture that the Pacers lived up to Salyers' "expansion team" label, scoring only six points in overtime. The exciting game would no doubt bring many of the fans back. How often they'll return, however, will no doubt depend on whether Indiana can play like a Toast of the Town should.