Pacers fire McMillan following 2nd straight 1st-round sweep

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FILE – In this Aug. 10, 2020, file photo, Indiana Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and forward Doug McDermott (20) react to a call during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Miami Heat, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Indiana Pacers fired coach Nate McMillan on Wednesday, Aug. 26, 2020, less than three weeks after announcing he would keep the job for two more years. Team officials made the announcement 48 hours after the Pacers suffered their second straight first-round sweep. (Kim Klement/Pool Photo via AP, File)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Nate McMillan won dozens of regular-season games despite the Indiana Pacers’ continual injuries.

The playoff losses cost him his job.

On Wednesday, two days after enduring a second straight first-round sweep, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard fired McMillan.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make; but we feel it’s in the best interest of the organization to move in a different direction,” Pritchard said, whose relationship with McMillan dates to their earlier days in Portland. “Nate and I have been through the good times and the bad times; and it was an honor to work with him for those 11 years.”

The decision was a surprise, given Pritchard’s Aug. 12 announcement that McMillan had been given a one-year contract extension through the 2021-22 season.

At the time, Pritchard cited McMillan’s ability to overcome major injuries — like the one that kept Victor Oladipo out for 12 months — and personnel changes, such as the trade of All-Star forward Paul George.

Another dismal playoff performance apparently changed the equation.

While McMillan’s 183 victories with Indiana rank third in franchise history and the Pacers made the playoffs in each of his four seasons as head coach, McMillan’s teams went just 3-16 in the postseason and were swept three times — the first three times the Pacers haven’t won at least one game in a best-of-seven NBA series.

They haven’t reached the second round since appearing in the Eastern Conference finals in 2013 and 2014, and after Monday’s loss to Miami, Indiana has lost a franchise-record nine consecutive playoff games.

Injuries have played a key role in the failures. After getting swept by LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2017, the Pacers played without Oladipo, a two-time All-Star last season who suffered a serious knee injury, last season and without All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis because of a foot injury against the Heat.

“Once you get into the playoffs, you need everybody,” McMillan said following the season finale. “You’re playing against the best. I really felt that we had everybody when we came down and Domas (Domantas Sabonis) got injured and wasn’t able to play in any of these games. It was a tough adjustment for us.”

McMillan finished his career in Indiana with a record or 183-136. Frank Vogel initially brought McMillan as associate head coach in 2013-14.

McMillan is 661-588 overall in 16 seasons as a head coach in three different stops — Indiana, Portland and Seattle.

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