Granger leads Pacers past Kings

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Danny Granger couldn’t quite keep up with Kevin Martin’s scoring pace, but unlike Martin, he made the most important shot of the game.

Granger scored 13 of his 35 points in the fourth quarter, making all six of his free throws in the final 1:30, to help the Indiana Pacers beat the Sacramento Kings 122-117 on Saturday night.

Martin led Sacramento with a season-high 45 points. He made 13 of 24 shots, 12 of 12 free throws and a career-high seven 3-pointers, but missed two critical 3-pointers in the final minute.

Granger knew Martin was hot, and it compelled him to try to match the effort.

“He was scoring at such a high rate, and I figured I had to start scoring, too,” Granger said. “He can score at such a high level.”

Granger, who entered the game as the NBA’s No. 5 scorer, has become so entertaining that his teammates find themselves struggling not to just watch the show.

“I’m in awe right now, but it’s important not to be a spectator when he gets the ball,” said Pacers rookie Roy Hibbert, who scored 12 points. “Down the clock, I’m not worried when the ball is in his hands.”

It was Martin’s third game back after missing 10 games due to a sore left ankle. He’s averaging 28.3 points since his return. He didn’t start the game, but he ended up scoring the most points for a reserve since Darius Miles scored 47 for Portland against Denver on April 19, 2005.

“He was carrying us all night, offensively and defensively,” Sacramento interim coach Kenny Natt said. “He had a great game altogether. We just need to get the rest of the team on the same page.”

Indiana has struggled at times to win close games this season, but the Pacers are 2-0 in 2009 because they kept their composure down the stretch on back-to-back nights in wins over New York and Sacramento.

“We’ve lost so many of them, we’ve had it right there and we never could get over the hump,” Granger said. “But these two games are huge for us and I’m glad we got them.”

T.J. Ford had 16 points and seven assists, and Troy Murphy had 12 points and 13 rebounds for Indiana.

Bobby Jackson had 15 points and 10 rebounds, and Brad Miller had 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists for the Kings, who have lost eight of nine.

The Kings took a 113-107 lead with 4:15 to play on Martin’s seventh 3-pointer, but Ford came back with a three-point play to make it 113-110. Granger made a short jumper, then Marquis Daniels made a floater in close to give the Pacers a 114-113 lead with just under 2 minutes to play.

“It was at 113-107, and we just needed a stop,” Martin said. “We didn’t get it.”

Sacramento took a 117-116 lead when Martin made a 20-foot jumper off a screen, but Indiana took the lead right back when Ford hit a 12-foot pullup jumper with about a minute remaining.

Sacramento’s Jackson missed a 3-pointer, and the Pacers rebounded. Indiana worked the clock, then Granger was fouled and he made two free throws to make it 120-117.

Sacramento had a chance to tie, but Martin missed two 3-pointers. Granger rebounded the second miss, then made two more free throws with 14.2 seconds left to put the game out of reach.

Granger is beginning to make a habit of scoring big late in games. He had 10 points in the fourth quarter of a win over Atlanta on Nov. 18, and 17 points in the final period of a victory against Golden State on Dec. 17.

“I try to up my aggressiveness in the fourth,” Granger said. “I almost pace myself and then in the fourth quarter I really go after it.”

Indiana led 68-67 at halftime. The Pacers tied their season high for points in a half, and Sacramento had a season best.

Martin had 25 points at the break on 7-for-11 shooting.

But all that offense didn’t matter for Sacramento because the Kings allowed the Pacers to shoot 50 percent from the field.

“We got people in here that are still trying to improve and we have a lot of young guys,” Kings guard Francisco Garcia said. “We just have to keep improving as a team and keep getting better.”

The Pacers are in the same situation, and they took a positive step on Saturday, despite Martin’s performance. Only Phoenix forward Amare Stoudemire has scored more against the Pacers this season.

“That was a really good win for us,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “We didn’t play well defensively, but that’s not to take anything away from the performance of Kevin Martin. We couldn’t guard Kevin Martin.”

Notes

: The game was moved up an hour so fans could watch the Indianapolis Colts’ NFL playoff game against San Diego. … Indiana G Mike Dunleavy missed his 33rd straight game because of a sore right knee, but he said he’ll return soon. … Murphy had his fourth straight double-double. … Sacramento got 69 points from its backups.

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Top Performers

 Top Performers
 Sacramento
K. Martin Kevin Martin
13-24,  45 Pts
2 Rebs, 6 Assists
 Indiana
D. Granger Danny Granger
10-20,  35 Pts
6 Rebs, 4 Assists

Team Stat Leaders

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Rebounds
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Saturday, Jan 3