Sabonis scored 12 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Portland Trail Blazers salvaged the finale of a three-game road trip with a 95-88 victory over the struggling Pacers.
Indiana was without 7-foot center Brad Miller, who was sidelined with a sore left knee. Without the inside presence of their starting big man, the Pacers could not keep Sabonis from taking over down the stretch.
“Some nights coach wants me to be more aggressive and score more points,” Sabonis said. “Sometimes it is difficult. Tonight was more comfortable.”
Sabonis, who made 13-of-15 shots in his previous three games, was 5-of-9 from the floor, including 4-of-7 in the fourth quarter. He made 6-of-8 free throws and had seven rebounds and four blocks.
“He was big for us - scoring, rebounding, blocking some shots,” Portland coach Maurice Cheeks said. “He got our game ball tonight.”
“We wanted to go inside on them, and Arvydas played a good game for us,” Blazers forward Ruben Patterson said. “He did a little bit of everything. He made baskets, blocked shots and made passes. Even though he’s 38 or 39, you have to give that guy a lot of credit. He’s still out there leading us.”
Portland led by as many as 17 points, but Indiana used a 15-2 run bridging the final two quarters and took a 70-69 lead on Ron Artest’s 3-pointer with 9:32 remaining.
Rasheed Wallace buried a 3-pointer to give the Blazers the lead for good at 75-74 with 7:07 to go and Sabonis was unstoppable in the final six minutes.
The 38-year-old Lithuanian converted a three-point play with 5:44 to go and assisted on a layup by Wallace 61 seconds later. He scored the next five points for Portland and - after a jumper by Damon Stoudamire - sank a pair of free throws with 57 seconds remaining.
Patterson scored 15 points and Wallace and Stoudamire had 14 apiece for Portland, which has won four of its last six games. The Blazers moved one game ahead of fifth-place Minnesota in the Western Conference.
Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal had 31 points and 12 rebounds but struggled to guard Sabonis and fouled out with 57 seconds remaining.
“Against O’Neal, he got in foul trouble in the fourth quarter and made it easier for me on the inside,” Sabonis said.
Artest finished with 16 points and Al Harrington added 12 and 11 rebounds for the Pacers, who held a 44-37 rebounding advantage.
Indiana has lost 13 of its last 15 games to fall three behind first-place Detroit in the Eastern Conference.
Patterson scored 11 points in the first quarter as Portland jumped out to a 25-15 lead. The Blazers made 13-of-20 shots in the second and took its largest lead, 45-28, on a 3-pointer by Antonio Daniels with 3:27 to go.
Portland matched its largest advantage three times, including at 51-34 with 56 seconds remaining. O’Neal scored five straight points to bring the Pacers within 12, but Stoudamire buried a jumper at the buzzer to give the Blazers a 53-39 halftime advantage.
“We just can’t let teams get us down big like we did in the first half,” O’Neal said. “We can’t let things like that happen.”
“I think we won the game early on,” Cheeks said. “When you play like that on someone else’s court, you know they’re going to make a run. They did it, but we held up.”
Portland had a 67-55 cushion with 51 seconds left in the third quarter, but Indiana scored 15 of the next 17 points, highlighted by six from O’Neal.