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Pacers fall short vs. Kings in crunch-time

Apparently what happens in Indiana doesn’t stay in Indiana, as the Pacers’ late-game woes followed them to Vegas.

2022 NBA Summer League - Charlotte Hornets v Indiana Pacers Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Less than 24 hours since falling to the Orlando Magic in sudden death, the Sacramento Kings got their revenge in crunch-time over the Summer Pacers, closing on a 14-5 run to hand Indiana it’s first loss in Vegas.

Early on, the Kings jumped out to a 21-11 lead, as Neemias Queta paced Sacramento with nine points, starting a perfect 4-of-4 from the field while running the floor in transition and stepping out to shoot against Isaiah Jackson’s drop coverage. In addition to Queta, who drained a three from the top of the key, the Kings combined for seven made threes in the first quarter, outscoring the Pacers by a margin of 12 from deep.

Still, despite trailing 33-25 by the end of the frame, two of Indiaan’s rookies made an early impression, with Bennedict Mathurin knocking down a triple, showing some wiggle through the chest of multiple defenders at the rim, and putting together an impressive on-ball defensive stand against Jared Rhoden, resulting in a tough, late-clock two. Kendall Brown, meanwhile, followed up an assist on a pocket pass out of the pick-and-roll with another dime on a transition lob, joining a revamped bench featuring Shimi Shittu and David DiLeo in place of Bennie Boatwright and Fanbo Zeng.

That group, with Gabe York and Nate Hinton manning the guard spots, took the first lead of the game at 5:57 of the second quarter, with Hinton scoring six points and Brown also chipping in a three. That lead only lasted a grand total of 24 seconds, though, as the Kings went on a 5-0 run, capitalizing in the open floor and off turnovers, with the Pacers committing five giveaways, including three from Andrew Nembhard, over the last six minutes of the half. Mixing in some match-up zone, Sacramento disrupted the flow of the offense, shifting between schemes and with Queta’s rim presence bothering several drivers around the basket, as Indiana was held scoreless from the field for nearly three minutes, only getting on the board with two free throws from Terry Taylor due to a last-second foul (with Nembhard as the full-court passer) on Keegan Murray to close the half, down 57-49.

Starting a second-straight game after tying the summer league record for blocked shots as a rookie, Isaiah Jackson was quiet prior to halftime, going just 1-of-2 from the field while also throwing an errant pass and letting his momentum get the best of him on an ambling grab-and-go foray. Moreover, after being used as a drop big against Charlotte’s Mark Williams, wisely testing the Duke product’s ability to produce in space, Jackson was caught playing a little too far from Queta on a pair of jump-shots, while not being deployed to switch nearly as much as was the case during the regular season.

Following halftime, however, Jackson got on the board quickly, first putting the ball on the deck from the top of the key and then showing off his ridiculous catch radius on a perfectly placed lob from Mathurin, who scored Indiana’s first points of the quarter, ending the team’s lengthy draught from the field.

Shortly thereafter, Mathurin also attacked the gap off the dribble and pulled the Pacers to within single-digits, 71-63, as No. 4 overall pick Keegan Murray watched without rotating over to help. Showing muscle and hustle, Terry Taylor scored seven of his 16 points for the game in the quarter, further shrinking the lead with a strong drive, leveraging his left shoulder. At the other end of the floor, Nembhard came up with a pick six, capping off a 12-3 run, from the starters, leaving the team down by only four, as York and Shittu entered for their second stints of the game.

With 1:16 left to play in the third quarter, the Pacers took the lead on a free throw from Brown, pushing the pace off yet another turnover from Sacramento, but the Kings immediately answered with a three from Jeriah Horne. York then fought fire-with-fire, draining a triple of his own to give Indiana a one-point lead headed into the fourth-quarter, completing what was a massive 20-6 run over the final 6:20 of the frame.

Back-to-back jump-shots from Sean McDermott, however, allowed the Kings to tie things up at 79-79, even as Hinton and Brown manufactured points in the paint, first, off of turnover and then coming from a nifty, 45-cut. DiLeo drilled his second three coming off a back-screen with a lightning-quick release to move ahead yet again. Moments later, the sharpshooter added to his tally from deep, canning a corner three to give the Pacers their biggest lead of the game at 85-81, before finding Brown for a reverse lay-up at the rim to pull ahead even further, as Queta was ruled out for the game with calf soreness.

In familiar trend from last season, though, the Pacers started to unravel after Murray hit a big, step-back three against Taylor to put the Kings back on top with under three minutes to play. From there, Sacramento never looked back, finishing on a 12-4 run, as Murray effectively put the game on ice, first attacking a closeout and then cutting the corner for an and-one to give him 23 points on 16 shots to go with six fouls (yes, six) for the game.

Over the final three minutes, Murray doubled up the Pacers in points all by himself, outscoring Indiana 8-4, coming on strong as his opposition was short on closers, with Mathurin going 0-3 in what became a 6-of-16 game from the field. In that regard, Chris Duarte’s composure, which he demonstrated in Friday’s win, was surely missed as a second set of hands in crunch-time, as his replacement, Duane Washington Jr., also came up 0-2 from the field, with Taylor committing a charge foul.

As always, there isn’t much concrete to take from these games even if it was all too deja vu to see the Pacers go cold yet again when a game was on the line.

Falling 103-96, the Summer Pacers move to 1-1 in Vegas ahead of taking on the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday, for a 9 PM tip.