The Indiana Pacers escaped in the closing seconds against the Sacramento Kings to win their fourth straight game. The Pacers never trailed in the second half, but there was rarely a moment when it felt like the Pacers were comfortably in control.
Indiana shot 50% for the game, but surrendered 53.8% shooting to the Kings, who had a night-long knack at hitting shots when they absolutely needed them. The Pacers struggled to exploit the Sacramento defense, only scoring 10 fast break points. On the opposite end, the Kings had no trouble getting the shots they needed to get to keep the pressure on the Pacers.
It all wound up to be a frustrating game from a fan standpoint, but an impressive one in terms of the Pacers doing what they themselves needed to do in order to come away with a win that could’ve easily slipped from their grasp. Indiana looked poised to do just that when they took a 99-91 lead with three minutes remaining, but the Kings scored seven straight to bring the lead to one with 30 seconds remaining.
Even in that window, as the Kings brought themselves back into the game yet again, the Pacers did just enough to keep Sacramento from getting over the hump. More specifically, Victor Oladipo did just enough to keep Sacramento from getting over the hump. Oladipo was the difference for the Pacers in the fourth quarter, scoring 14 of his 23 in the quarter on top of making plays elsewhere, including a huge block on Willie Cauley-Stein during Sacramento’s 7-0 run.
Leading up to it, Oladipo had a pair of and-ones and came up with a steal that led to Bojan Bogdanovic finishing to put the Pacers up 99-91. Then with 18 seconds left, Oladipo would drill a three at the top of the arc to halt the run and push the lead back to four.
Unsurprisingly, that didn’t even end the game. Buddy Hield wrapped up his 20-point night with a tough shot in the corner (a shot the Pacers were fortunate was only a two) and Bogdan Bogdanovic would hit a three for Sacramento with four seconds remaining. Indiana would remain composed, however, icing the game at the free throw line with Bojan and Oladipo hitting all four of their attempts to wrap up the hard fought win.
While Oladipo was the wizard in guiding Indiana to the win, there was plenty of help from Indiana’s Bogdanovic in helping ensure the Pacers got to that point. Bogdanovic finished with 25 points, 18 coming in the first half, finishing a perfect 9-9 from the free throw line. Thaddeus Young as well played big early, scoring nine of his 18 in the second quarter, including seven straight to help give Indiana the lead for good late in the first half.
They were Indiana’s only double figure scorers and outside of a 4-6 shooting night from Domantas Sabonis, the only Pacers to shoot over 50%, which shows how far their contributions went in ensuring the Pacers finished at 50% as a team. Their success was made possible in part to Darren Collison and Myles Turner, who finished with 14 assists combined. Collison had nine (including dishing on all three of Turner’s field goals), five of those to Young and Bogdanovic, who were assisted on 13 of their 15 combined buckets.
Tonight’s win moves Indiana to a staggering 11-1 in games decided by three points or less. While luck has played its part in getting them there (including going against them in that one loss), tonight’s game also showed just how they are capable of quite simply coming away with these wins by making timely plays, timely shots, and hitting those timely free throws.
The win pushes them to 45-31 on the year, allowing them to keep pace with Cleveland and Philadelphia, but also moves them three and a half games up on Washington, who fell tonight in Detroit. The Pacers are also 2-0 on their current West Coast trip, but will be given two incredibly challenging tasks to wrap it up, facing the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets on the road.
Both teams sit in 9th and 10th place in the West, just one and two games removed from a spot in the postseason. That will bring an incredibly amount of focus to both games, which begins Sunday against the Clippers. The game will be an early 3:30 p.m. local tip on Easter Sunday.