If there was a chance for the Indiana Pacers to quell last night’s reports on the fray between the coaching staff and the players, it went completely by the wayside following a miserable loss to the Sacramento Kings. The on-court effort alone would be enough of an indictment nearly all of the time, but they had to go the extra mile when Greg Foster took offense to some choice words from Goga Bitdaze late in the third.
Bitadze had just hit a three when he yelled at Foster to, well, have a seat, leading to a heated back-and-forth where Foster was being held back by Myles Turner. The Pacers were trailing 80-59 at that point, having given up 13 straight before the three pointer. Foster, already on Bitadze for a defensive breakdown on the previous possession, served as a flash point, leaving not just the long-term status of the team in doubt, but perhaps even the shortest of terms.
Though just one moment, it helped explain why the Pacers were en route to one of their worst scoring nights of the year. It illustrated why they had 21 turnovers on the night and why Sacramento outscored them 25-8 in points off turnovers and 28-11 in transition. The Pacers again provided no resistance in the paint, giving up 62, surrendering 31 points to Marvin Bagley III while Domantas Sabonis, Indiana’s leading scorer, had to pile up some garbage time points to get to 17.
The high water mark, a 12-6 lead less than four minutes into the game was erased following a spirited Kings run out of a timeout. Indiana briefly took the lead with some good bench minutes to open the second quarter, but were outscored 18-9 in the final six minutes of the first half, getting blocked no less than four times at the rim as the Kings put a clamp on the game early, and for good.
Following the dust-up, the Pacers appeared to be a bit aimless on the court, struggling to make much of a dent in the Sacramento lead, with Sabonis and Caris LeVert playing deep into the blowout to boot. Afterwards, Nate Bjorkgren said of the incident, “We’re in a frustrating stretch here. ... The competitive juices are flowing. Things like that’ll happen.” He also said he spoke with both Bitadze and Foster individually and will address it again with them.
Bjorkgren ended his post-game interview by saying that his team would come together, which admittedly, feels like a tall order given the overall effort tonight. With at least seven games remaining, there is still time to find positives, but the lengthy injury list and a soon-to-be daunting stretch a week from now will likely limit just how much that translates into wins.
The Pacers will face a quick turnaround amidst this fallout, facing the Atlanta Hawks tomorrow night on the second night of a back-to-back.