Pacers-Kings Preview

Paul George and the NBA-leading Indiana Pacers beat up on the last-place Sacramento Kings last week.

Things could get ugly again Friday night with two of the Kings’ best players possibly unavailable.

Sacramento (15-26) returns home following a 2-4 road trip, which ended Wednesday with a 119-98 loss to Houston. The defeat was made potentially much worse for the Kings when stars Rudy Gay and DeMarcus Cousins exited due to injury.

Gay, who matched a career high with 41 points the previous night in a 114-97 win at New Orleans, hurt his left Achilles tendon in the first quarter. Cousins sprained his left ankle in the second.

Sacramento was held to 39.5 percent shooting and outscored 66-32 in the paint and 29-5 in transition.

"Obviously, it is tough to lose two starters, but we can’t use that as an excuse," backup guard Jimmer Fredette said of Cousins and Gay, who are averaging a combined 42.7 points.

"Now, we have to go out and play with the personnel we have, and we feel like we have enough talent to still to go out and be competitive and win games, and we weren’t able to do that (Wednesday). We didn’t give a great effort."

Reserve forward Derrick Williams made the most of his season-high 40 minutes with 22 points and a season-best 11 rebounds. He could see an increase in playing time if Cousins and Gay can’t go.

"All of our other guys have to step up. They may not be here for Friday when we have the Pacers, arguably the best team in the league," Williams said. "Everybody has to be on point, we’re missing two guys and we just have to be ready to play."

The Kings couldn’t keep up with Indiana in the opener of their trip, falling 116-92 on Jan. 14. Cousins had 31 points and 13 rebounds, but Gay was the only other Sacramento player to score in double figures with 12.

"They’re the No. 1 defensive team in the NBA for a reason," said Kings coach Mike Malone, whose team shot 38.5 percent in the second half.

While the Pacers (33-8) are giving up a league-low 89.2 points per game, they surrendered their highest scoring total in more than four years in a 124-100 loss at Phoenix on Wednesday. Indiana had no answer for the Suns, who shot 54.2 percent, scored 27 off points off 21 turnovers and held a 28-5 edge in transition.

The Pacers had won their previous five games by an average of 20.2 points.

"We spoil you guys with great defense," guard George Hill said, "so when you do have a bad game you think the world is going to end."

Getting back on track at the defensive end, though, means handling a Kings team that’s won a season-high three straight at home while averaging 116.7 points and 50.0 percent shooting.

Leading the Pacers with 23.3 points per game, George is averaging 28.2 and 53.8 percent shooting over the last five. That hot stretch began with a 31-point performance against Sacramento last week.

Indiana has dropped five of eight on the road as opponents have shot 45.6 percent in that stretch, well above the Pacers’ NBA-best mark of 41.2. The Pacers are 26-0 when holding teams to under 43.0 percent.