Pacers-Kings Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 17, 2012
Indiana Pacers coach Frank Vogel is pleased with his team's defense, but the offense still needs some work. Sacramento Kings coach Keith Smart can relate to those concerns. The Pacers go for a season-high fourth consecutive victory Wednesday night at Sacramento in their only meeting with the Kings in 2011-12. Indiana (9-3) is among the league leaders in scoring defense with 88.9 points per game, field-goal percentage defense at 41.5, steals per game at 9.6 and blocks with 5.7. The stingy play at the defensive end has given Indiana a chance to match its best start since 2004-05 with a win Wednesday. The Pacers, though, are shooting 41.3 percent and averaging 93.2 points - 96.0 during their winning streak - as the team has struggled to adapt to the increased tempo Vogel is stressing. "The total points per game is as much a byproduct of the pace of the game and we're not playing fast enough," he told the Pacers' official website. "Hopefully we'll start getting our scores up into the hundreds but our defense has been very solid. I'm very pleased where we are with that." Coming off a three-day break after a 97-83 victory over Boston on Saturday - the team's longest layoff of the season other than the All-Star break next month - Indiana will play 10 of 14 on the road as it begins a three-game trip. Forward Danny Granger doesn't seem too concerned about where the Pacers play. "I think the message is that we're a force to be reckoned with in the East,'' he said after scoring a team-best 21 points against the Celtics. "It's not one of those fluke things where we just started having a good beginning of the season. We're actually a legitimate contender in the East. We're right there, and we should be recognized as that.'' Granger scored a season-high 37 in the Pacers' last game in Sacramento, a 107-98 victory Nov. 30, 2010. The Kings (4-10) return home following a 1-4 trip that ended with a 99-86 defeat to Minnesota on Monday. Sacramento, loser of five of six, is scoring 90.1 points per game - 88.3 in seven games since Smart replaced the fired Paul Westphal - and shooting a league-worst 39.6 percent. "I've got the simplest offense you can run," said Smart, 2-5 as Kings coach. "You just move it to a spot and move it to the next spot. But for whatever reason we're trying to make the play ourselves with the defense set, looking at the basketball.'' Guard Tyreke Evans, though, is one Sacramento player having trouble in that offense. He has totaled 12 points and gone 4 of 19 from the field in the last two games. "We've got to find a better way to swing the ball a few times and take better shots," Evans said. Indiana has held opponents to 84.0 points and 40.2 percent shooting during its 5-1 stretch. Evans had 16 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the Pacers' last visit. In his first game back after missing 19 with plantar fasciitis, he finished with six points with eight boards in a 110-93 victory at Indiana on March 25. DeMarcus Cousins scored 19.0 points per game with 11.0 rebounds versus the Pacers in 2010-11, while Indiana center Roy Hibbert totaled 27 points and 13 boards in those matchups. The last five games between these teams in Sacramento have been decided by nine or fewer points, with Indiana winning three.
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