The visiting Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings have bigger things to worry about than Tyrese Haliburton’s canceled homecoming when each team attempts to end a losing streak Thursday night.
Haliburton has blossomed into an NBA star since being dealt from the Kings to the Pacers in February 2022 in a deal that brought Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento.
The 23-year-old has taken the Pacers to the NBA in-season tournament semifinals and to the top of the league’s scoring charts this season, but he strained his left hamstring in a win over the Boston Celtics on Jan. 8.
He has missed Indiana’s last four games and has been ruled out for the rest of this week.
The Pacers overcame their star’s absence to beat the Washington Wizards and Atlanta Hawks, but have since lost 117-109 at Denver on Sunday and 132-105 at Utah on Monday.
The 107-point scoring average in the two losses is nearly 20 points below their league-leading 125.6.
Already down Haliburton, the Pacers have been missing key reserve Aaron Nesmith the last two games, and were without one of their top starters (Bruce Brown) at Utah. Indiana coach Rick Carlisle pointed out a bigger issue after the loss to the Jazz.
Brown (bruised right knee) and Nesmith (sore shin) could both return against the Kings, who thumped the Pacers 137-114 when they last visited in November. Haliburton was held to nine points in that game.
The Kings open a two-game homestand having lost three games in a row. After tipping off a five-game trip with wins over the Detroit Pistons and Charlotte Hornets, they were drubbed 112-93 in Philadelphia before taking back-to-back gut-wrenching losses at Milwaukee and Phoenix.
The Kings were a second away from beating the Bucks before Damian Lillard nailed a 32-foot 3-pointer in overtime for a 143-142 Milwaukee win, then were up 17 in the fourth quarter in Phoenix before watching the Suns go on a 23-4 run to win 119-117.
Afterward, Kings coach Mike Brown noted the Suns pulled a page from the Golden State Warriors’ playbook that had helped them beat Sacramento in the playoffs last season.
Sabonis finished the game with his second straight triple-double — and 11th of the season — with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
He has faced the Pacers twice since the trade, recording a double-double in each. He contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to last year’s home win over Indiana.
The clubs will meet again in Indianapolis on Feb. 2.