MIAMI - Head coach Frank Vogel said his Indiana Pacers had nothing to be ashamed of on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), despite having fallen short of the NBA Finals after pushing the Miami Heat to a decisive game seven in the Eastern Conference playoff series.
Indiana came up 23 points short in fact, losing 99-76 after a blistering second quarter from the defending NBA champions and Vogel admitted the mood in the locker room was despondent.
"They are disappointed. They felt like we could have won this series and they wanted to win badly," he told reporters.
"So disappointed but also encouraged about the future. I told them to keep their heads extremely high. We accomplished a great deal.
"No one in the world gave us a chance to get this far ... we overcome a lot to grab the nation's attention.
"Everyone in this country knows who the Indiana Pacers are now. We represent all the right things - class, character, hard work, old-school basketball, playing the game the right way," he added.
The Pacers, who lost small forward Danny Granger to injury for the entire season, were seeded third in the Eastern Conference playoffs behind the New York Knicks.
After beating Atlanta in six games, they came up against New York and produced what was, for some, a surprise 4-2 victory in the series.
Then came a thrilling series with Miami in which there was little to choose between the two teams before Monday's collapse in the face of the Heat's power and talent.
"They certainly pushed us to get better and the competition brought out the best of us tonight," said Miami coach Erik Spoelstra, whose team move on to the Finals series .
"But that was in large part to do with the series and how competitive it was with Indiana," he added.
Forward Paul George has emerged as a real talent and he was able to put the series in perspective.
"We battled against the odds," he said. "The great thing is we are a young team. We are past the rebuilding stage and we are in the stage of shaping up to be a championship team.
"This is our first year of tasting success...of almost getting there but not being able to get it done.
"Last year we went out in the second round. The rate that we are going, we should be thinking about championships in our future."
Miami face the San Antonio Spurs in the finals series, starting in Florida on Thursday (Friday, PHL time).