Another poor defensive effort led the way for the Indiana Pacers, resulting in a second straight loss for the first time this season. The Pacers lost late to the Sacramento Kings, surrendering a season high 127 points, two nights after surrendering a season high 125 points to Phoenix.
The Pacers couldn’t ask for a better start, forcing a timeout barely a minute into the game after scoring six quick, easy points. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to build on that lead, allowing Sacramento to hang around long enough for the game to settle into a back-and-forth affair.
Every time Indiana appeared to find some sot of rhythm, the Kings instantaneously brought the game back to square zero, going ahead 65-64 at halftime thanks to a buzzer beating three from De’Aaron Fox. In the third quarter, the Pacers led 69-66 after a Myles Turner three and had the ball with a chance to go up five, but Domantas Sabonis was blocked by Marvin Bagley III, sending the Kings the other way with a three to tie it up.
That three was not only a five-point swing shot, but was one of four straight makes for Sacramento, using them to go on a 23-8 run that put them up by 12 late in the third. Despite their defensive struggles, the Pacers were able to break out of an offensive funk late, closing the quarter strong to cut the deficit to just four.
The one-step-forward, two-steps-back flow of the game came back on the Pacers in a big way to open the fourth. The Kings hit two quick threes to go back up double figures. It was all the Pacers could do to get stops, be it in preventing the Kings from hitting a three or a floater, with the lead holding at eight with just under eight to go.
After not playing a role for the first 40 minutes of the game, defense began to play a factor late, helping the Pacers to erase the deficit with eight straight, hard fought points from Victor Oladipo and Sabonis. They finally broke through into the lead on an Oladipo attack at the rim.
The lead wouldn’t last long, however, as Justin Holiday was met at the rim by Richaun Holmes, setting up Buddy Hield on the other end for another crucial five-point swing to put them up one. As the game wound down, Sabonis seemed to put the Pacers ahead on a goaltending call, but when it was correctly overturned, the Kings did what they’d done best tonight; hit a tough shot on a broken play to sink the dagger to drop Indiana into their second straight loss.
The defense for the Pacers was a problem all night, but especially in trying to contend with Harrison Barnes. Barnes bullied through the entire Pacers lineup, scoring 30 points on 10-14 shooting. His play lifted the Kings to 56% shooting on the night, including 15-32 from three point range, hitting nine in the second half.
The Pacers meanwhile, struggled to keep pace, dipping below 50% late after an impressive first half. They took 14 extra shots, needing each and everyone of them simply to break even in field goals made. The loss also wastes some good individual performances, including another 28-ponit night from Sabonis.
Doug McDermott was a big boost off the bench, scoring 21 points, including 15 in the first half. Edmond Sumner continued to play well off the bench, scoring eight and Aaron Holiday picked up three steals in a bench lineup with Oladipo that did a good job creating turnovers in the second quarter.
The starting backcourt improved their shooting somewhat, but Oladipo finished 8-21, taking control late in the game to both hit key shots and miss key shots, finishing up with 21 points. He did lead the way defensively with six steals, but even a more familiar 26-13 edge in points off turnovers wasn’t enough to keep Sacramento from scoring at an extremely high rate.
In the end, it was the Kings that came up bigger defensively. Holmes was a force inside and Sacramento as a whole did a good job creating enough havoc to fluster the Indiana offense. Holmes finished with six blocks, the first time this season a player has bested Myles Turner head-to-head even though he had three himself.
Indiana’s defensive struggles will be on full display tomorrow night as they take the court on the second night of a back-to-back, facing Stephen Curry and the much-improved Golden State Warriors.