The Sacramento Kings were eliminated from playoff contention a long time ago, but they provided a formidable challenge to the playoff-bound Pacers on Thursday night.
The Pacers, however, have one thing the Kings do not — an All-Star.
Victor Oladipo rose to the occasion down the stretch, scoring 13 of Indiana's final 19 points to lift the Pacers (45-31) to a 106-103 win over Sacramento (24-52).
"Credit them, they played really hard," Oladipo told FOX Sports Indiana's Jeremiah Johnson after the win. "They made some big shots down the stretch, some unbelievable shots. We did a good job of just staying poised and getting the shots we wanted."
With just five minutes to play, Indiana held a narrow 92-91 lead. But the Pacers seemingly pulled away, reeling off seven unanswered points to open up an eight-point lead with 3:02 to play.
The Kings, however, would not go quietly into the night. The Kings slowly clawed their way back, with Buddy Hield knocking down a pair of free throws with 30.1 seconds remaining to trim the deficit to 99-98.
Oladipo answered on the other end, coming off a Myles Turner screen and calmly knocking down a 3-pointer with 17.9 seconds to play. Hield answered with a long two on the other end, but Bojan Bogdanovic knocked down to free throws for Indiana to make it a four-point game.
Bogdan Bogdanovic (no relation) buried a deep three for Sacramento with 4.3 seconds remaining, but Oladipo hit two more free throws with 2.5 seconds left and the Kings — out of timeouts — could only manage a desperation heave that missed wide at the buzzer.
"The road is tough," Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. "These guys again found a way tonight to win another game on the road. Sacramento played good basketball tonight. They played loose, they hit some tough shots.
"We knew it was going to be a challenge tonight, but our guys stayed with it."
Bogdanovic led the Blue & Gold with 25 points, while Oladipo added 24 points, five rebounds, and two steals as Indiana reeled off its fourth straight win. The Pacers remain in contention for a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference (and homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs), as they are currently in fifth place, just a game back of both Cleveland and Philadelphia in the loss column.
"We know it's going to be tough obviously with these road games," Oladipo said about chasing a top-four seed. "But if we take it one game at a time, we can accomplish it. That's what we're focused on."
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Both teams got off to a fast start offensively in a back-and-forth first quarter that ended with the score knotted at 28. Oladipo led all scorers with nine points in the frame, going a perfect 4-for-4 from the field.
Sacramento scored the first five points of the second quarter and led by as many as seven in the period. The Pacers, however, dominated the latter half of the quarter, outscoring the Kings 26-14 over the final seven minutes of the first half to take a 61-56 lead into the break.
Both teams slowed down a bit in the third quarter, but the game remained closed. Cory Joseph's pullup jumper with 7.8 seconds remaining in the frame gave Indiana a 79-77 lead, but Frank Mason III answered on the other end with a stepback shot at the buzzer to tie game heading into the fourth.
Thaddeus Young joined Bogdanovic and Oladipo in double figures for the Pacers, finishing with 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting and eight rebounds.
Bogdan Bogdanovic led the Kings with 21 points, while Hield added 20 points, seven rebounds, and four assists off the bench. Willie Cauley-Stein scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half while also adding seven rebounds and five assists.
After two straight wins to start their four-game West Coast road trip, the Pacers have two days off before they take the court again on Sunday in L.A. against the Clippers at 3:30 PM ET.
Inside the Numbers
Bogdanovic topped 20 points for the 14th time this season. The Pacers are 11-3 on the year when the Croatian sharpshooter scores 20 or more.
Though only three players scored in double figures for the Pacers, five other scored between seven and nine points. Among that group: Turner (nine points, five assists, and three blocks), Darren Collison (eight points, nine assists, and three steals), and Domantas Sabonis (eight points and eight boards).
Indiana went 18-for-20 from the free throw line, while Sacramento was just 6-for-9 from the charity stripe. Bojan Bogdanovic alone attempted as many free throws as the entire Kings team and finished a perfect 9-for-9 from the foul line.
The Pacers forced the Kings into 18 turnovers on the night while only committing 10 giveaways themselves.
Sacramento made 13 3-pointers on the night, with Hield going 4-for-7 and Bogdan Bogdanovic going 4-for-9 from beyond the arc.
With Hield leading the way, the Kings' bench outscored the Pacers' reserves, 48-22.
You Can Quote Me On That
"I just got to my spots and I was effective. All I was worried about was just being aggressive, getting to my spots and making the right play." -Oladipo on his play in the fourth quarter
"You get shots. You have to make shots. Victor made a big shot. I thought Myles came and set an excellent screen on that play to free up Victor and we made the plays to win the game." -McMillan
"We know we're going to be in some tough fights and some dog fights each and every game. Hopefully we can come out and jump on teams like we're supposed to. We're starting off a little slow right now, but like I said, it's getting us ready for the playoff atmosphere. Each and every time we step out on the court, especially when we’re away, it’s us five versus the whole world and that's how we have to treat each and every game." -Young
"I was proud of the way that we competed – we made some mistakes but we shot the basketball pretty well. We played against a team that I have a lot of respect for. That's a good team. They are what we thought they were." -Kings head coach Dave Joerger
Stat of the Night
The Pacers made 40-of-80 shots on Thursday to post a field goal percentage of .500 or better for the first time since the All-Star break. Indiana has now made at least half of its shots in 22 games, but had not in any of its previous 18 contests.
The Pacers are now 21-1 on the season when shooting 50 percent or better.
- The Pacers have now swept the season series with the Kings in each of the past two seasons. Indiana has also won four of its last six contests in Sacramento.
- Pacers forward Trevor Booker missed Thursday's game with a sprained right ankle. In his absence, rookie TJ Leaf logged four minutes in the first half, just his second appearance over the past 10 games.
- With three steals, Oladipo extended his franchise-record streak of games with at least one steal to 59.
The Pacers square off against a Clippers team battling for a playoff spot on Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles. The Pacers will wear their Hickory uniforms for the game, which will tip off at 3:30 PM ET.
Following a four-game road trip, the Pacers return to Bankers Life Fieldhouse to host Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors on Thursday, April 5 at 7:00 PM ET. Find Tickets »