January 9, 2006

It's not good to be the Kings

Pacers score 91 points through 3 quarters, produce one of their best efforts of the season

By Mark Montieth

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- There were no leaks in the Arco Arena roof Sunday. That was just the Indiana Pacers pouring it on in the midst of an increasingly sunny trip.

Scoring 91 points in the first three quarters with a steady barrage of 3-pointers, the Pacers defeated Sacramento 108-83. The game was so one-sided that the famously loyal Kings fans were booing as the teams left the court at halftime, and coach Rick Adelman had conceded by the end of the third period.

The turning point?

It came in Saturday's practice.

After enjoying a day off Friday following Thursday's win at Golden State, the Pacers got back to serious business. The competition became so heated that Stephen Jackson and Danny Granger had what Jackson called "a little wrestling match" that quickly blew over, but it was foretelling of the edge they brought to Sunday's game.

"We had one of the best practices we've had in the 21/2 years I've been here," coach Rick Carlisle said. "Guys really seemed committed to getting better. Little things like that are good signs. You hope it translates to the games, but you never know."

It translated quite clearly this time, starting at the defensive end. Anthony Johnson and Fred Jones clamped down on point guard Mike Bibby and cut off the head of the Kings' offense. Bibby hit 1-of-10 shots and passed out just four assists as the Kings' offense never found traction.

The most telling state for the Pacers was their 16 fast-break points, which matched their season high. They managed just two fast-break points in Thursday's win at Golden State, a typical number for them. But they played this game with wild abandon.

They scored 66 points in the middle quarters, when they dominated the game. They had 60 by halftime and 91 after the third period. They entered the game averaging 93.6 points.

Jackson, who scored 27 points and hit the game-winning basket in the win over the Warriors, led the Pacers with 31 points. He scored all of them in the first three quarters for his fifth consecutive game of more than 20 points.
The Pacers hit their first seven shots of the third period, not missing from the field until Johnson failed to connect with 6:02 left.

Five of those seven field goals were 3-pointers, and four came from Jackson. In succession. All from the right wing. Within a 1 minute, 18-second span.
The final one, which opened an 80-47 lead, forced another Kings timeout with 7:18 left in the period and brought more boos.

"Anytime you get hot and hit a couple of threes like that, it always feels good," Jackson said. "I'm having a good road trip so far and I don't want it to stop now."

Jones, who scored 18 points off the bench, provided the second-quarter highlights. Jones, who scored 14 first-half points, hit two 3-pointers midway through the period, then converted Jason Hart's turnover into a reverse breakaway dunk over Peja Stojakovic that got his teammates out of their seats.

The Pacers are guaranteed a split of their four-game trip, which ends tonight in Los Angeles against the Lakers. They're 4-28 there in their NBA history and will have to deal with Kobe Bryant, who is coming off a 50-point effort Saturday and has scored 45 or more in three straight games.

"We're going up against a guy who's playing a superhuman

Key Player
Stephen Jackson scored a game-high 31 points, all in the first three quarters. He scored 17 in the third period when he hit four consecutive shots, and five overall.

Key to the game
The Pacers' defense forced the Kings into 39.5 percent shooting from the field, which sparked an up-tempo offense. They finished with 16 fast-break points after having just two at Golden State on Thursday.

Up next

Pacers (18-13) at Lakers (17-16)
When: 10:30 p.m. today.
Radio: WIBC-1070 AM.

Players to watch

Pacers -- Fred Jones has come alive offensively with the absence of Ron Artest and Jermaine O'Neal. The Pacers will need him to be alive defensively tonight, too. Although Stephen Jackson probably will start the game as the defender on Kobe Bryant, Jones will get plenty of quality time against him and figures to be the Pacers' best hope of containing him.

Lakers -- Duh. Who else but Bryant? Whatever one thinks of him, his talent and willpower are undeniable. The latest witnesses to offer testimony are the Clippers, who watched Bryant score 50 against them Saturday night -- 40 in the second half -- and hit the game-winning shot. Bryant, the NBA's leading scorer, became the sixth player in league history to score 45 or more points in three straight games and the first since Michael Jordan in 1990. Bryant's one-man show doesn't always bring victories, but even his teammates enjoy it. "It's like God put Kobe here for us to watch him play basketball," Lamar Odom said.

Series trend
The Pacers always seem to get dazzled by the bright lights in Los Angeles. They're just 4-28 there overall, and have won just one game at The Forum or Staples Center since 1992. That came in 1999 during the lockout season.

-- Mark Montieth