The Kings spoiled Domantas Sabonis' return to Indiana, falling 107-104 to the Pacers on Friday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
Sabonis spent five NBA seasons with the Pacers before being traded last year before the 2022 trade deadline. The 26-year-old arrived in Northern California as part of a six-player deal that sent guard Tyrese Haliburton to Indiana.
As a result, Sabonis had plenty of emotions heading into the contest, beginning with the pre-game tribute to the Kings' big man, who is also coming off a 2023 NBA All-Star honor. However, Sacramento put itself in a hole as the team faced a 19-point deficit during the game, which dampened the mood for Sabonis.
"[Friday] has been really cool and [I] got to see a lot of people, a lot of familiar faces," Sabonis told reporters postgame. "Obviously, you want to leave with a win, but we definitely weren't at our best, and that second quarter hurt us."
Nonetheless, while Sabonis wanted to leave his old stomping grounds with the victory, the three-time All-Star was happy to see some familiar faces.
"Yeah, just with everyone, all the staff; I'm close with all the staff members, coaching staff, people at the arena, people at the Conrad," Sabonis continued. "And it's cool. It's really cool to be back. Everyone's super nice. All they say is, we miss you. It's awesome to see you. So it's awesome to feel that love.
"Everyone always wants to come back. You want to come back, you want to play in front of the fans again, have a good game and get that win tonight. We couldn't do it. Hopefully, there's many more years of that. And it was nice. It was nice to see everyone."
The Kings did fight back to get within a three-point deficit late in the fourth quarter and had a chance to tie the game late with a 3-pointer and possibly force overtime in the game's final seconds. Sabonis carried the ball up the court and handed it to Kevin Huerter, who found Harrison Barnes for a contested shot from beyond the arc. No good.
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Sabonis and Sacramento will attempt to rebound against a struggling New Orleans Pelicans team on Sunday at Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans are on a 10-game losing streak that could turn to 11 if they fall to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.