SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Midway through the season, Indiana’s Paul George is being mentioned as an MVP candidate.
On Friday night, he showed why he deserves such consideration.
George scored eight of his 36 points in overtime to help the Pacers beat the Sacramento Kings 116-111.
George sent the game to overtime with a four-point play to cap a nine-point fourth quarter. He made a 3 and was fouled by Derrick Williams with 15 seconds left. George then made the free throw to complete the four-point play and tie the score at 103.
“We run that play a lot and I practice that shot,” said George, who has seven 30-plus point games this season. “I was coming off a screen and felt him pushing me from behind. I just knew to rise up.”
Isaiah Thomas missed a jumper in the closing seconds for the Kings, sending the game into overtime.
In overtime, George made 3 of 4 shots and had a key steal to thwart any thoughts of a Sacramento comeback.
David West made 3-pointer and George dunked after a steal, putting Indiana up 110-106. George, voted a starter for the Eastern Conference in next month’s All-Star game, later added a corner jumper for a 114-111 lead.
After his heroics on offense, George added one at the defensive end. He stole the ball from Thomas with 12 seconds left and was fouled. George made two free throws for a 116-111 lead.
“They got some incredible bounces tonight,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “But when we defend like we did tonight I can’t ask a whole more from our guys. The difference between winning and losing close games is going to come down to execution on offense and can you get the best shot possible.”
The Pacers overcame a 17-point second-quarter deficit and rallied in the fourth to tie the score.
Indiana then outscored the Kings 13-8 in overtime to avoid a rare two-game losing streak. The Pacers were coming off a humbling 124-100 loss Wednesday in Phoenix.
Marcus Thornton matched his career high, scoring 42 points and hitting seven 3-pointers for the Kings. Thomas had a career high-tying 38.
The undermanned Kings played without injured leading scorers DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay.
“Even though they were missing two key players, we weren’t taking them lightly,” Pacers center Roy Hibbert said. “But in the first half I was thinking, ‘is it going to be one of those nights again?’ It took a big heart (by George) to make that shot. Then we took over the game in overtime.’
Lance Stephenson had 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Pacers. David West had 22 points and 11 rebounds, and Hibbert and George Hill scored 10 points each.
Cousins sprained his left ankle in second quarter in Wednesday’s game in Houston and Gay went out in the opening quarter with a left Achilles strain. Both players are day-to-day for Sunday’s home game against Denver.
The Pacers hardly resembled the NBA’s top defensive team in the opening half, allowing 60 points. Indiana entered the game having allowed fewer than 100 points in only seven of 41 games, including 11 games of 80 points or fewer.
“We knew they would be up, be loose for this game. And they were,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Isaiah and Marcus were sensational with their shot-making. I’m proud of our guys for weathering the storm and finding a way to win.”
After the Pacers cut the lead to a basket, Thomas followed with a 3 and two free throws and Thornton dropped in a short jumper, putting the Kings ahead 93-86 midway through the third quarter.
Thornton, who has struggled all season offensively and entered the game shooting 36 percent, scored 22 points in an amazing first quarter. He made 9 of 12 shots, including four 3-pointers in scoring the most points in a quarter this year for the Kings.
Thornton exceeded his season-high of 24 points late in the second quarter. He had 26 in the first half to help the Kings take a 60-50 lead at the break.
On the Kings’ recent six-game road trip, Thornton had totaled just 24 points and shot 29 percent. He also had failed to score in double figures in his last nine games as a starter.
“When you have 43 points sitting on the sidelines like Rudy and Cousins, somebody has to step up. I took it upon myself to be that guy,” Thornton said.
Hill scored 10 points and George had eight in the third quarter when the Pacers cut the Kings’ halftime lead in half, to 84-79, entering the fourth. Thornton had 11 points in the third, but the Kings shot 31 percent.
NOTES: The Kings became the first professional sports team to employ the new Google Glass technology. The Kings’ mascot (Slamson),dancers, sideline reporters and others closest to the court live-streamed their first-person views through Google Glass, allowing fans at the game, and viewing at home, to witness the courtside experience. … Former New York Mets manager Jerry Manuel was sitting courtside. Manuel, who lives in the Sacramento region, is helping start a baseball program at William Jessup University in nearby Rocklin. … George was called for a technical foul after time expired in the second quarter, while West and Hill drew technicals in the third quarter