SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP)—Slumped over in his chair, staring aimlessly at the locker room floor Tuesday night, Danny Granger(notes) of the Indiana Pacers had little energy thanks to a nagging case of the flu.
Despite the illness, Granger still was the dominant player against the Sacramento Kings. The talented small forward scored a season-high 37 points for the Pacers, who used a strong third quarter to pull away from the Kings, in a 107-98 victory.
Granger said the symptoms were evident all day and he’s wasn’t sure how he got the flu.
“Maybe it’s the holidays,” muttered Granger, who said his wife also has the flu.
It was certainly no holiday for the Kings, who tried a number of different defenders on Granger, a dangerous inside-outside player. He made 12 of 19 shots, 10 of 11 free throws and added seven rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block in 40 minutes.
“They were getting me the ball in spots where I like it,” said Granger, who had 12 fourth-quarter points. “Once I got it going they kept calling plays for me.”
The victory was the fourth in five games for the Pacers, who began their four-game road trip by beating the Lakers on Sunday night.
The improved the Pacers have won four straight away from home and are 5-2 on the road, which includes an impressive 93-77 victory last week in Miami. A year ago, Indiana won only nine road games all season.
“This has been three years of hard work,” Pacers coach Jim O’Brien said. “This (turnaround) didn’t just all of a sudden happen.”
Beno Udrih(notes) scored 24 points for the Kings, who have dropped five straight, 10 of 11 and are 2-8 at home. Rookie DeMarcus Cousins(notes), who was kicked out of a Monday practice, responded with a career-high 20 points and eight rebounds. Tyreke Evans(notes) had 16 points and nine assists, but committed six turnovers.
“I’m mad and I’m frustrated about losing,” Cousins said of being dismissed from practice for unspecified disciplinary actions by head coach Paul Westphal. “My own opinion is I think different strategies should be used in the game. But I was playing selfish and it (the practice incident) was a good lesson for me. I learned from that.”
The Kings pulled within 99-93 on Francisco Garcia’s(notes) 3-pointer with 1:34 left. But Collison made a runner in the lane and Josh McRoberts(notes) hit two free throws to put the Pacers ahead by 10 points with less than a minute to play.
The Kings also cut the lead to six points early in the fourth quarter. But Granger converted a three-point play, Collison made two free throws and Jones scored from close range to put Indiana ahead 94-83 midway through the period.
Granger enjoyed a hot second quarter and it continued into the third when the Pacers built the lead to a high of 18 points. He scored 10 points and the Pacers defense pestered the Kings into six turnovers, helping Indiana take an 80-69 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We weren’t happy with the hustle stats at halftime,” O’Brien said. “We mentioned it to the guys. They are starting to take pride in their defense and they want to win. If you want to win badly enough you do things like that.”
Tied at the half, the Pacers came out strong to start the third quarter. They scored the first six points and used a 17-1 run to assume a 69-54 lead. Granger had eight points, including the final four on a rare four-point play at the 7:25 mark.
“Danny Granger caught fire, they took the game from us and after that we were playing catch up,” Evans said.
It was another frustrating second half for the Kings. In their previous game Saturday against the Bulls, the Kings scored just 28 second half points.
Prior to the game, Westphal commented on Cousins dismissal from Monday’s practice.
“DeMarcus isn’t the first player who has been dismissed from practice and he won’t be the last,” Westphal said. “There is certainly things that happen behind closed doors that I keep behind closed doors. There is no question that DeMarcus is a passionate player and he’s impatient to see himself where he thinks he can be and we’re anxious too.”
Granger scored 15 points in the opening half. His 3-pointer late in the second quarter pulled the Pacers even at 52-52 heading into halftime. Udrih made all six shots and scored 15 points, while Evans had 11 points and eight assists for the Kings.
Notes: On Monday, the Kings assigned rookie center Hassan Whiteside(notes) to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League for an undetermined amount of time. The team also waived Antoine Wright(notes), who had played in seven games this season. … Solomon Jones(notes) was productive off the bench offensively, but had five fouls in 15 minutes. … Udrih made his first seven shots before misfiring on a jumper early in the fourth quarter.