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Indiana Pacers embarrassed by Sacramento Kings in worst loss of season

The Pacers looked miserable in their loss to Sacramento.
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SACRAMENTO — The Indiana Pacers have had a few losses this season where they looked inferior to their opponent. But they had not yet had a game where they got outclassed or embarrassed wire to wire. They've typically been able to find success for at least a small portion of every game.

Wednesday night's game against the Sacramento Kings was not a typical game. The Pacers, for the first time this season, were humiliated. It was their first loss by more than 20 points in a game this season, and at one point the Kings lead was over 30.

The final score was 137-114 in favor of Sacramento. But the score does a poor job detailing how this game went. There was too much going on for the scoreboard to tell the whole story.

This game was more than a normal regular season basketball game. Pacers guards Tyrese Haliburton and Buddy Hield were back in Sacramento for the first time since the Kings traded them to the Pacers in February. Opposite them was Domantas Sabonis, who went from Indiana to the Kings in that same trade. He had yet to play against the blue and gold since the deal.

Each player involved said that the game was just a regular game to them. They all claimed it was just another game on the schedule. But the fans knew it was more than they. They cheered often. They booed with regularity. The Sacramento faithful made sure that this battle was not just a typical night in the office.

"We knew this was going to be a difficult game and environment," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said after the game. Hield, who started for the Pacers, was met with boos all night, and the Golden 1 Center was loud after every Kings made basket. "I think this one's on me. Just didn't have our guys ready... I didn't have them prepared for what was coming. So that's on me, and they played great and we really struggled."

Hield started off poorly, missing his first four shots. He recovered and hit six of his next nine, but it was clear that he was hunting for a bucket early. He finished with a fine outing of 17 points on 13 shots.

Haliburton, though, never got going after a standing ovation before the game. He scored just nine points and tied his second worst outing of the season with just four made shots. His passing was outstanding again, he had ten assists in 25 minutes. But the Kings made his life hell with double teams and a forceful defensive plan.

"Fox did a great job of forcing him left," Kings guard Malik Monk said of Sacramento's strategy defending Haliburton. "He's great going right, but not as efficient going left."

With Haliburton having an off night and Hield starting slowly, the Pacers got off on the wrong foot. And it was contagious. Myles Turner, who had an excellent month of November, finished with four points and six rebounds. The Pacers bench shot 17/48. Jalen Smith was the only member of the blue and gold who had a strong night, but he suffered a facial contusion in the third quarter, so his 22-point night ended early.

Defensively, the blue and gold looked disconnected and disinterested. The Kings sprinted their way into 56 points in the paint and 31 fast break points. Of course, it was easy for the speedy home team to get out and run with how often the Pacers missed shots. But they tore up the Indiana defense with their spread pick and roll style.

"I feel like we didn't hold them to as many points as we usually do in the first half," Pacers center Isaiah Jackson said after the game. Carlisle noted that he thought the transition game was the difference."We were a step slow and they were on top of things. So, tough night for us," he said.

And the fans were loud and into the game every step of the way. The closest the Pacers got to the Kings in the second half was 12 points, and Sacramento immediately went on a 9-0 run at that point. The crowd was relentless from then on.

This game was the worst the Pacers have looked in a performance all season. Maybe it was the emotions of the game and the altered dynamics of a typical night. Maybe it was a basketball hangover from the team's most exciting win of the season on Monday. Perhaps the Kings are just a bad matchup for the Pacers. Whatever it was, the blue and gold looked off and played terribly. They deserved to get crushed.

Indiana is now 12-9 with four more road games coming their way. They have lost three out of their last five games and are showing signs of vulnerability. Friday's game in Utah is key for the blue and gold.

"We're going to get out of here and move on to the next stop and do better," Carlisle said after the game. After getting outclassed by the Kings on Wednesday, it's hard to imagine the Pacers doing much worse.

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