Stojakovic, Pacers Rally Past Kings
Indiana 98, Sacramento 93
INDIANAPOLIS, March 17 (Ticker) -- In his return to the Hoosier State, Ron Artest received a rude greeting and an even rougher result.
The target of fans all game, the defensive-minded Artest could do nothing to stop a late surge that gave the Indiana Pacers an emotional 98-93 victory over the Sacramento Kings, who had a five-game winning streak snapped.
The 2004 Defensive Player of the Year, Artest's antics have disrupted the last two seasons for the Pacers. He finally was traded in January for sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic, a less complete but more cooperative player.
Asked if there was anything he missed about Indiana, Artest paused for several moments, then replied, "Yeah, probably a couple of things, but I can't think of them right now."
Artest missed nearly all of last season with a suspension for going into the stands to fight fans in an ugly brawl at The Palace of Auburn Hills. This season, he grumbled about his limited role in the offense before requesting a trade, which prompted the Pacers to put him on the inactive list for more than a month.
Artest was booed during pregame introductions and nearly every time he touched the ball. He ignored the Conseco Fieldhouse crowd - which can be very tough on visitors - to spark the Kings to a quick start.
"It's cool they booed me," Artest said. "There's still a lot of people out there that were glad to see me. If there was a fight between the fans who love me and the fans who booed me, I think the fans that love me have more heart. I'm not surprised they booed; that's what they're supposed to do. I'm a Sacramento King now."
Sacramento made nine of its first 10 shots, opening a 21-7 lead on a 3-pointer by Artest. Bibby scored 10 points and Artest and Miller eight each as the Kings built a 36-20 lead after one quarter.
The Pacers pecked away, closing to 45-41 on a surge led by Granger, Artest's heir apparent. Fueled by a flagrant foul by Sacramento's Bonzi Wells, Granger scored seven straight points.
The Kings scored the last seven points of the half capped by a layup by Artest for a 52-41 lead, but Granger scored 12 points in the third quarter, including consecutive hoops that gave the Pacers a 70-66 lead.
"This was a big game for us," Granger said. "We were playing against Ron and it was Peja's old team, it was a playoff atmosphere. They were beating us down at the beginning, but the crowd really helped get us back in it. I've always been an emotional player and I definitely fed off of our crowd."
Sacramento surged back ahead, 85-81, on a hook by Wells but 6:44 to go but went cold down the stretch as Indiana came alive. Leading the way was Tinsley, who scored 10 of his 20 points in the final period.
"We got off to a slow start, but I think we played hard in the second half," Tinsley said. "Physically, I'm feeling better and I'm ready for a playoff run. I'll do whatever I can to help this team win."
The point guard made a jumper and layup to give the Pacers the lead for good at 91-88 with 3:15 to play. Stojakovic added a layup and Stephen Jackson turned a miss by Artest into a fast-break dunk and a 95-88 lead with 1:46 left.
Artest scored 18 points but made just 6-of-22 shots. His last points came with 9:44 to play.
"As a team, we missed like 10 layups for 20 points," Artest said. "The Pacers took advantage of it and they deserved to win. We lost it as a team, and we just move on."
"I don't think (the booing) affected the game," Kings coach Rick Adelman said. "We couldn't do anything offensively in the second half. They turned up their energy level and started attacking us and it was a totally different game. They had 57 points in the second half and shot 60 percent. We just didn't guard them well enough.
Stojakovic had 20 points and 12 rebounds and Jackson scored 15 points for the Pacers (33-30), who improved to 7-17 in games decided by five points or fewer. Jeff Foster swept 16 boards.
Mike Bibby scored 22 points and former Pacer Brad Miller added 19, nine assists and eight rebounds for the Kings (33-32), who have gone 15-8 since acquiring Artest to climb into the Western Conference playoff picture.
"I think after the first quarter, we were pressing it too hard," Bibby said. "We just didn't continue to play the low game. It's a disappointment that we let that big of a lead get away from us."