Playing at home, the Indiana Pacers have already beaten both of last season’s NBA finalists but have been unable to pull out a victory at Conseco Fieldhouse lately.
The last-place Sacramento Kings, meanwhile, have much bigger problems on the road.
Either the Pacers will avoid a fifth straight home loss or the Kings will dodge a 10th consecutive road defeat when they meet on Saturday night.
Indiana turned heads early this season with a 95-79 home win over Boston on Nov. 1, and took the defending NBA champions to overtime on Dec. 7 in Indianapolis. Five days earlier, the Pacers notched a 118-117 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, who lost to the Celtics in the finals in June.
But the Pacers (11-21) have dropped their last four home games, including one in double overtime and the other three by six or fewer points. The last two were a 105-103 defeat against New Orleans on Sunday, and a 110-104 loss to Atlanta on Tuesday.
“We’re putting ourselves in position to win against elite teams - that’s the good news,” Indiana coach Jim O’Brien said after the loss to the Hawks. “The bad news is we haven’t figured out how to win games down the stretch.”
Perhaps Friday’s 105-103 victory at New York was a breakthrough. Jarrett Jack’s jumper with less than a second left broke a tie as the Pacers snapped a four-game overall losing streak.
Indiana still squandered a 10-point fourth-quarter lead, but Jack scored the Pacers’ final six points and finished with a season-high 29. Starting in place of the ailing but active T.J. Ford, Jack has 51 points on 18-of-28 shooting (64.3 percent) in the last two games.
“We had the game in hand until the end and they made a run,” said Indiana’s Danny Granger, who scored 22. “And thanks to Jarrett Jack we pulled it out, because he was big for us down the stretch.”
The Kings (8-25) haven’t won on the road since beating New Orleans 105-96 on Nov. 19. They haven’t lost 10 straight road games since dropping the last 10 of the 1997-98 campaign.
Leading scorer Kevin Martin’s return from an ankle injury helped them to a 92-90 home win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday, but Martin was just 4-of-15 from the field on Friday as Sacramento fell to 2-14 on the road with a 98-92 loss at Detroit.
The Pistons were playing without Richard Hamilton, Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess, yet the Kings still stumbled. They went 33-of-34 from the free throw line, but shot just 33.7 percent from the field.
“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year, and we haven’t been able to pull them out,” Sacramento’s John Salmons said. “We need to play hard and play smart and hopefully get a win.”
The Kings have earned wins in five of their last six trips to Indiana, including a 110-104 victory on Jan. 19.
Another high-scoring game wouldn’t be surprising. The Pacers rank 27th and the Kings 28th this season in points allowed per game.