Two teams getting All-Star play from 2022 in-season acquisitions go head-to-head on Friday night when Sacramento Kings visits Indiana Pacers in Indianapolis.
The game features Kings big man Domantas Sabonis and Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, who both found out on Thursday that they had made their respective conference’s All-Star teams.
Sabonis, a two-time All-Star in five seasons with the Pacers, and Haliburton, an up-and-coming standout in just his second year with the Kings, were traded for one another last February 8 in a six-player deal.
Sabonis will be making his first return to Indiana since the move. He did face his old mates in November in Sacramento, a game the Kings won 137-114 with Sabonis contributing 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 23 foul-plagued minutes. The 26-year-old has helped lift Sacramento into first place in the Pacific Division with arguably his best all-around season, averaging 18.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and a career-best 7.1 assists.
He is the Kings’ first All-Star since DeMarcus Cousins in 2017.
Sabonis has added three double-doubles to his league-leading total in the first three games of the Kings’ current seven-game trip, putting up 23 points and 10 rebounds in a loss at Minnesota before 17 points and 13 rebounds in a rematch win over the Timberwolves and then 34 points and 11 rebounds in a 119-109 triumph at San Antonio on Wednesday.
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The win over the Spurs gave the Kings three wins in their last five games, allowing the club to reach one of coach Mike Brown’s goals. He has broken down the Sacramento season into segments of five games, asking his team to shoot for three wins in each stretch. The Kings have produced a winning record in each of their last three five-game segments, with a new one starting against the Pacers.
“I don’t want our guys thinking about the season as a whole because it can get overwhelming,” Brown explained. “The short-term goal is winning at least three out of every five games. We just did that, and now we dive into this next five-game series and try to make it four in a row, which would be a first.”
The Kings will see a Pacers squad coming off a draining 112-111 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday night. Indiana blew a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead, then watched as Buddy Hield missed a potential game-winning jumper at the final horn. After missing the previous 10 games with elbow and knee issues, Haliburton returned to action against the Lakers and was immediately greeted by a public-address announcement that he had been selected to his first All-Star team.
He responded with 26 points and 12 assists in 36 minutes.
Veteran team-mate T. J. McConnell said the All-Star honour is well deserved.
“When you talk about people belonging on an All-Star team, there’s a lot of great players in this league,” he said. “But he gets hurt and we lose 10 out of 11. I think that proves how valuable he is to this team. And his numbers speak for themselves. He’s a walking double-double.”
The double-double against the Lakers was Haliburton’s 23rd in 41 games this season. He missed another by one point (nine points, 10 assists) in the earlier loss at Sacramento.