Still trying to find their way without All-Star Danny Granger, the Indiana Pacers appear to have taken a big step forward.
The Pacers look to keep their momentum going Friday night when they try to sweep the season series with the Sacramento Kings for the first time since 2008-09.
After fighting through a slow start without Granger, who is targeting a February return from a left knee injury, Indiana (7-8) has a chance to win for the fourth time in five games.
The Pacers put together perhaps their biggest win of the season Tuesday night when George Hill banked in a shot over Dwight Howard with 0.1 seconds left to give Indiana a 79-77 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers in the opener of a four-game road trip.
Hill scored in double figures for the fourth consecutive game with a team-high 19 points for the Pacers, who had lost six of their first eight away from home.
"We need road wins to build our togetherness, our belief in ourselves and our new identity, and to build confidence," coach Frank Vogel said. "This is a big one, and one that we were looking for."
David West added 16 points, 10 rebounds and a season-high eight assists. The power forward has played well recently, averaging 21.0 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 55.2 percent in his last four games.
Indiana, though, has had its struggles offensively. The Pacers shot under 40.0 percent (36.7) for the seventh time Tuesday and scored less than 80 for the fourth time, but they made up for it with another impressive performance on the defensive end.
Indiana held the Lakers to a season low in points and their lowest field-goal percentage at home (31.6) since April 8, 2000. The Pacers lead the NBA in defensive shooting percentage (40.2) and rank third in points allowed per game(91.2).
Now, Indiana faces a Kings team that had averaged 107.7 points while shooting 52.8 percent from the field - 23 of 48 (47.9) from 3-point range - in three games before a 97-89 home loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.
After falling into a tie with New Orleans for the worst record in the Western Conference, Sacramento (4-10) will try to wrap up its three-game homestand with its third win in five games.
Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins each scored 20 against the Timberwolves. Evans has come on strong of late, averaging 21.0 points on 54.8 percent shooting over his last five games.
While the Kings have the third-lowest turnover average in the West at 14.6, they committed five miscues in the fourth quarter Tuesday.
"We make plays throughout the whole game and then it's either a turnover or a couple of stops we didn't get," guard Isaiah Thomas said. "We've just got to learn from it and we've got to fix it or, like I said, we're not going to win these close games."
Cousins has enjoyed some success against an Indiana team that ranks near the top of the league in rebounds (48.5) and blocks (7.4) per game. He's recorded three straight double-doubles versus the Pacers and averaged 18.0 points and 13.5 rebounds in four career meetings.
Indiana has won six of nine against the Kings, including 106-98 in double overtime Nov. 3. West and Hill each scored 18 points while Paul George chipped in 16 and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Pacers.
The Kings were led by Marcus Thornton's season-high 26 points off the bench and Cousins' 21 points and 13 boards.
The Associated Press News Service
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