Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Sacramento

FAN BLOG TV COMPANION PACERS NOTES KINGS NOTES

Countdown to Tipoff: Pacers vs. Sacramento

SCOUTING THE PACERS: They owe a debt of gratitude to the Kings, who won a stunner 97-90 in Milwaukee Wednesday night to give the Pacers (32-40) three-game leads over both the Bobcats and Bucks in the race for the eighth playoff spot. In fact, the Pacers are now only 3½ games behind seventh-place New York, which is in free-fall. With five wins in their last seven games, the Pacers have performed well since interim coach Frank Vogel's lineup change inserting Tyler Hansbrough and Paul George with the first unit. Hansbrough has taken off, averaging 21 points on .579 shooting in the last 10 games and the first unit has outscored seven of nine opponents. While the Pacers have started slowly in the last two games, falling behind by 12 in the second quarter of both, they have taken control with dominant third quarters, outscoring the Nets and Bobcats 62-36. The Pacers beat the Kings in similar fashion 107-96 on Nov. 30 as Danny Granger scored 22 of his 37 in the second half and Indiana used a 17-2 run in the third quarter to break things open.

SCOUTING THE KINGS: Sacramento should get a lift from the return of leading scorer Tyreke Evans, who has missed the last 19 games with plantar fasciitis in his left foot but is expected to return Friday night, albeit in limited minutes. The Kings have gone 6-18 without Evans this season, but trade deadline acquisition Marcus Thornton has done his best to fill the void, averaging 24.6 points on .508 shooting in the last seven games. Do not be deceived by the Kings' 18-52 record. This is a very competitive team that has either had the lead or been tied in the fourth quarter of 42 games.

KEY MATCHUP: With DeMarcus Cousins, Sam Dalembert and Jason Thompson, the Kings have a big, athletic and imposing front-line rotation. They pound the offensive glass, ranking third in the league in that category, and are sixth in rebounding.

QUOTE MARKS: "We talked about going into the final weeks of our season as one of the hottest teams in the league. We’re 5-2 in our last seven games." – Vogel

INJURY REPORT: For the Pacers, Mike Dunleavy (broken left thumb) is out. For the Kings, Tyreke Evans (plantar fasciitis, left foot) is questionable and Hassan Whiteside (surgery, partial patellar tendon tear, left knee) is out.

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BROADCAST INFO: Please note, the game will not be televised locally. The radio broadcast is anchored by the flagship of the Pacers' network, WIBC 93 FM, featuring Mark Boyle and Austin Croshere, with Kevin Lee reporting.

INTERACT: You can chat live with fans around the country in our live game blog which begins at tipoff.