SACRAMENTO, CA – The Indiana Pacers (45-31) did it again.
Indy’s winning streak is now at four games thanks to a grinding battle with the lowly Sacramento Kings (24-52) on Thursday. The Blue and Gold got 25 points from Bojan Bogdanovic and 24 points from Victor Oladipo and escaped the Golden 1 Center with a 106-103 victory.
The Pacers remain in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings. The Philadelphia 76ers‘ win streak is up to eight games, keeping them percentage points ahead of Indiana for the four seed. Philly’s odds at maintaining or improving their playoff positioning took a hit on Thursday, however, as it was announced that star center Joel Embiid will miss two-to-four weeks of action due to an orbital fracture.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are still a half game ahead of the Sixers and Pacers for third.
The first half of Thursday’s contest was competitive. Each team shot 56.1% (23-for-41). There were eight lead changes. But after outscoring the Kings 26-14 to close the half, the Pacers led 61-56 at intermission.
Bogdanovic looked good, going 6-for-6 at the free throw line and scoring 15 points. Oladipo didn’t miss in the first quarter, shooting 4-for-4 from the field. He went into halftime with 11 points.
Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein was also knocking down shots efficiently, scoring a game-high 17 on 8-for-9 shooting.
In the third quarter, Indiana seemingly had chances to pull away from the Kings a bit. Sacramento always had an answer, though. Indy led by as many as six in the frame, but the Kings thwarted any hopes of expanding that advantage and tied the score at 79 heading into the fourth.
It was more of the same for the Pacers in the fourth. Sacramento just wouldn’t go away. The 24-win Kings scrapped with Indy deep into the final frame, but the visitors finally got themselves some separation.
The Blue and Gold were up one, 92-91, with 4:40 remaining when Oladipo connected on an and-one layup. Domantas Sabonis then canned a deep jumper. And Bogdanovic swished another one. It was now 99-91 with 3:02 to play. The Kings still wouldn’t go away.
Sacramento answered with seven consecutive points, making it a 99-98 ballgame with just 30.1 seconds on the clock.
Oladipo saved the day again, but only for a moment. The former IU standout drilled a clutch triple with 17.9 seconds left, but Buddy Hield quickly responded on the other end with a deep two to trim Indiana’s lead to 102-100. Bogdanovic then went to the line and nailed two free throws, but Bogdan Bogdanovic (no relation) raced down and hit a three-pointer to bring the Kings within one with 4.3 seconds to go.
Oladipo was fouled and calmly drained two free throws, but Sacramento still had a shot. With no timeouts remaining, the Kings had to hurry for a game-tying three. Bogdan Bogdanovic’s heave missed everything, though, and the Pacers were able to defeat a Kings squad that took them to the limit.
Indiana’s road trip will continue with a meeting with the Clippers in Los Angeles, but not before some time off. The Pacers will get two days of rest before battling the Clips in LA on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The Blue and Gold have not had multiple days between games since Feb. 23-26.