Domantas Sabonis, a second-year center who came over to the Pacers (3-3) in the deal that sent Paul George to the Oklahoma City Thunder, was expected to provide frontcourt depth behind Myles Turner at center. But with Turner sidelined indefinitely due to a concussion, the son of former Lithuanian great and Portland Trail Blazer Arvydas Sabonis has responded well to the increased minutes.
The younger Sabonis had a career-high 22 points, hitting all nine of his shots from the field, and matched a career best with 12 rebounds as Indiana defeated San Antonio 97-94 on Sunday night. Victor Oladipo, also brought over in the George trade, scored 23 points and hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with 10 seconds to play, giving the Pacers a win after they turned in their best defensive effort of the season in points allowed and field goal percentage (40.0).
Sacramento (1-5) is starting a three-game road trip that also entails stops at Boston and Detroit, and the Kings have lost four straight after being routed 110-83 by Washington on Sunday. Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, but the Kings made just 39.0 percent of their shots and trailed by as many as 37 points as they rested starters George Hill and Zach Randolph.
Rookie point guard De’Aaron Fox had a night to forget in his first NBA start, shooting 1 for 8 and committing four turnovers while also having five assists. The fifth overall pick had averaged 14.8 points coming off the bench in Sacramento’s first five games.
Three keys to the game
Sacramento's rotating starting lineup - Kings coach Dave Joerger has already started six different players around mainstays Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein as he tries to find the right mix of youngsters and veterans. Bogdanovic, drafted in the first round in 2014 but finally in the NBA, is quickly making an impact and has averaged 12.3 points in three games after not playing the first three. Randolph is expected back at power forward and Hill should be running the offense again, so hopefully those fresh legs will make a difference.
Hill's homecoming - Hill spent five seasons with Indiana from 2011-2016, hitting a high-water mark of 16.1 points and 5.1 assists per game over 43 contests in 2014/15. After scoring 37 points in Sacramento's first two games, he had just 12 on 3-of-14 shooting in his last three games before Joerger gave him Sunday off.
Outstanding Oladipo - This was the scorer everyone expected Oladipo to be when he entered the NBA as the second overall pick in 2013. He's averaging 25.5 points on 50.0 percent shooting, including a surprising 46.9 percent from 3-point range since getting to the rim was his primary strength when leaving Indiana University for the NBA. While Oladipo has more turnovers (21) than assists (19), it's something the Pacers can live with if he continues to score at this clip.
Matchup to watch
George Hill vs Victor Oladipo - The once and future point guard of the Pacers meets the current combo guard of the Pacers. Hill had two good games against Indiana playing for Utah last season, totaling 46 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists while making 16 of 33 shots. He has averaged 13.1 points in eight lifetime games against Indiana, but 19.5 per game in the last four. Oladipo has averaged 16.9 points and 4.0 assists in nine games against Sacramento, but he's made just 12 of 39 from beyond the arc in those games and is shooting 43.0 percent overall when facing the Kings.
Sacramento Kings projected starting lineup
PG - George Hill | SG - Buddy Hield | C - Willie Cauley-Stein | SF - Bogdan Bogdanovic | PF - Zach Randolph
Indiana Pacers projected starting lineup
PG - Darren Collison | SG - Victor Oladipo | C - Domantas Sabonis | SF - Bojan Bogdanovic | PF - Thaddeus Young
Another player with an axe to grind against a former team is Pacers point guard Darren Collison, who played in Sacramento for three seasons before leaving as a free agent for Indiana this summer. He's averaged 10.8 points and 4.3 assists in 13 lifetime games versus the Kings, reaching double figures eight times.
Hield enjoyed two good games as a rookie last season versus Indiana, hitting 7 of 11 from 3-point range and 12 of 22 overall while scoring 31 points in the two games. Randolph has scored 18.8 points per game and registered 12 double-doubles in 30 lifetime contests against the Pacers.
More than a few trends favor the Pacers in this matchup. They are 12-4 against the spread in their last 16 games overall and 8-3 against the spread in their last 11 games after a win against the spread. Sacramento have failed to cover in their last four games and are 1-4-1 in their last six against the spread versus Eastern Conference opponents.
With the Pacers favored by only 5.5 points, it makes sense to pick them again given Sacramento's recent struggles. The over/under of 209.5 points is tricky because the Pacers have scored 130 or more points twice but been held under 100 in their last two games. They are more likely to reach the century mark than the Kings, but if the game is a blowout, it may be tougher to reach the number in either direction.
The constant early shuffling of Sacramento's lineup, even with the good idea of giving veterans rest, creates a chemistry problem. It may have also provided learning lessons for Fox, who will return to his customary role off the bench. The Kings may have some strong veteran leadership in the locker room, but it's yet to translate into wins as Randolph is shooting just 34.1 percent and Vince Carter is at 22.7 percent in limited minutes.
Indiana's target is to be this consistent on the defensive end of the floor on a game-in, game-out basis. Granted, the Spurs are offensively challenged down two starters, but the victory showed there is a foundation for the Pacers to build. Look for them to do so with a 103-90 victory that extends Sacramento's skid to five games.
This game will be televised locally on Fox Sports Indiana and NBC Sports California. Tip-off time is 7 pm ET.
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