Artest scored 15 points against his former team, and the Sacramento Kings beat the Pacers 110-104 on Saturday night.
Artest still is blamed by many Indiana fans for the brawl between Pacers players and Detroit Pistons fans in 2004 and the resulting fallout. One fan close to the Kings’ bench even yelled, “You ruined our franchise!”
Artest was booed often on Saturday, but got his first win against the Pacers since he requested a trade from Indiana two seasons ago. Ironically, the win came a day after he scored 18 points in a win at Detroit.
“The history of Detroit and the history of Indiana, it just makes you think about things that you’ve been through,” Artest said. “It came across my mind a couple times.”
Artest said he has a “special place in his heart” for Indiana.
“I realize that I get emotional, but I’m able to deal with it now,” he said. “I just go out there and do what I’ve got to do. I’m always going to be kind of emotional, but staying levelheaded is very important.”
Sacramento coach Reggie Theus was impressed with the way Artest handled what seemed like a cruel scheduling joke.
“It’s been an emotional trip for him,” he said. “For the most part, nothing fazes Ron—Ron just plays. Sometimes, those challenges get him going.”
Artest shot just 5-for-14 from the field and had six turnovers, but he also had two steals, three assists and three rebounds in 35 minutes. Though his shot selection was questionable at times, the ones he made were clutch.
“He heard the boo-birds, but he’s mentally tough,” said Mikki Moore, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds. If it does faze him, it’s not going to affect the whole game. He’ll brush it off and keep going.”
The Pacers played without forward Jermaine O’Neal, who will miss at least two weeks with a bruised left knee.
“It’s not a good thing that Jermaine is out, but now we know at least he’s going to be out for a while, so we can move on for the next couple weeks and try to get something going,” forward Mike Dunleavy said.
The crowd of 14,015 was Indiana’s third-largest of the season. Artest entered the game with 6:29 left in the first quarter. Two minutes later, he made a 3-pointer on his first field goal attempt.
He made a 3-pointer as time expired at the end of the first quarter and pointed to the booing crowd. The shot gave the Kings a 27-22 lead.
The Kings led 63-58 early in the second half before going on a 10-3 run to take a 71-59 advantage. Sacramento led 78-69 at the end of the third quarter.
A 3-pointer, then a short jumper by Artest gave the Kings a 95-80 lead with 5:13 to play.
The Pacers responded with a 15-4 run that included two 3-pointers by Granger and two buckets by Foster to cut the lead to 99-97.
The Pacers trailed 104-99 when Dunleavy made a 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to make it 104-102. The Kings made their free throws in the closing seconds to seal the win.
The Pacers lacked the offensive flow that has become one of their strengths this season.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” Rush said. “Part of it is we’ve got a lot of guys who have been out because of injury, not getting a lot of practice time in with certain people on the court. This new lineup is different to us. We’re still adjusting to it. I think at the end of the day, we could have easily had this win tonight.”
Sacramento was disappointed to have let the Pacers back into the game.
“I think we got a little fatigued at the end, but three games in four days, I expect that,” Moore said. “We worked through it.”
The Pacers beat the Kings 98-93 last time Artest played in Indianapolis on March 17, 2006. Artest scored 18 points, but shot 6-for-22 from the field, including 2-for-14 in the second half. He missed last year’s game in Indianapolis because of personal reasons. … Pacers F Stephen Graham played for the first time in 17 games and scored a career-high 15 points. … Indiana C David Harrison missed his fourth game of a five-game suspension for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. … Former Pacers player and assistant coach Chuck Person returned as an assistant for the Kings.