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NBA Preview: Sacramento Kings (27-19) at Indiana Pacers (27-22)

When the Indiana Pacers welcome the Sacramento Kings to Indianapolis on Friday, it will be almost two years since the organizations executed a trade that reshaped both sides.

The Feb. 9, 2022, deal sent Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson to Indiana for Domantas Sabonis, Jeremy Lamb, Justin Holiday and a 2023 second-round draft pick. Haliburton is headed to his second consecutive All-Star Game later this month.

On Tuesday and Thursday, Haliburton played consecutive games for the first time since Jan. 8, having missed 10 of the previous 11 due to a hamstring injury. He was limited to 21:54 in Indiana’s 109-105 loss to the red-hot New York Knicks on Thursday.

Haliburton is averaging a team-leading 23 points per game and an NBA-best 12.3 assists per game, but he finished with just 15 points and five assists in the defeat at New York.

Sabonis, meanwhile, is averaging 19.9 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists for Sacramento, which is in the thick of the Western Conference postseason hunt.

After the Kings snapped a 16-year playoff drought last season, they are aiming to reach consecutive postseasons for the first time since making eight straight from 1998-99 through 2005-06.

In the Kings’ 115-106 loss at Miami on Wednesday, Sabonis recorded his 13th triple-double of the season and fourth in the last eight games with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 13 assists.

That stretch includes Sabonis’ 21-point, 11-rebound, 10-assist triple-double against Indiana on Jan. 18, a game the visiting Pacers won 126-121 thanks Bennedict Mathurin’s 25 points.

Mathurin missed Indiana’s last two games, both losses, with a toe injury. He is listed as day-to-day.

Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, who is averaging a team-leading 27.2 points per game, managed just 13 points against the Heat. He shot 4-for-16 from the floor, including 1-for-8 from 3-point range.

Aside from Keegan Murray, who made 7 of 11 shots from beyond the arc en route to 33 points, Sacramento was 5 of 29 from deep. Kings coach Mike Brown was unconcerned in his postgame news conference.

Sacramento averages 14.9 made 3-pointers a game, the fourth-best figure in the NBA. When the teams last met, the Kings went 15-for-37 (40.5 percent) from beyond the arc while the Pacers shot 13-for-33 (39.4 percent).

The Jan. 18 encounter was Indiana’s last before Pascal Siakam joined the lineup. The former All-NBA selection, acquired in a trade with the Toronto Raptors, is averaging 21.1 points per game in eight appearances for the Pacers.

Siakam finished with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the Thursday loss at New York.

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