INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers are young and talented. With a chance to strengthen their grip on the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, they showed they haven't risen to their full potential yet.
Indiana entered the game with a three-game lead over Milwaukee and Charlotte for eighth place in the East, but they shot 35 percent from the field and made just 4 of 25 3-point attempts. The Bucks and Bobcats each won on Friday night to trim the gap to two games.
"We can't relax," said Danny Granger, who led the Pacers with 20 points. "Every night you're playing against a team that can beat you. This should be a lesson for us."
The Pacers were coming off road wins against New Jersey and Charlotte and had won five of seven. They felt good about their chances against Sacramento, which had the fourth-worst record in the league.
"You can't lose to a team that you should beat and at home, at this point in the season," Granger said. "It's a bad loss for us."
"We're really playing some good defense," Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said. "We've been knocking on the door all year playing close games, not quite being able to break through, and now we're starting to break through. We've got a good young team and we're learning some lessons, and we're learning to win on the road."
Sacramento guard Tyreke Evans returned after missing 19 games with left foot plantar fasciitis and finished with six points and eight assists in 17 minutes.
"I looked at the court like it was my first time in the NBA," Evans said. "I haven't been out there in a long time. It was like 'Space Jam.' I need my powers back."
Westphal said Evans played well.
"It's great to have Tyreke back," Westphal said. "I think he gave us some outstanding minutes."
The game was competitive before Sacramento took control in the second quarter. A three-point play by Garcia gave the Kings a 47-30 lead.
The Kings outrebounded the Pacers 38-23 in the first half and held Indiana to 25 percent shooting to take 55-37 lead at halftime.
"We had the slow start, but we were getting what we wanted offensively as far as good looks, we just couldn't really get them to go down," Granger said.
The Kings led 65-46 in the third quarter when Garcia was called for a technical foul for arguing with an official. Granger, who had been held in check by Garcia up to that point, immediately became a factor. He hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 16-6 surge that cut Sacramento's lead to 71-62 and forced the Kings to call a timeout.
The Kings regrouped and led 85-68 at the end of the quarter.
Indiana made a final surge. Paul George's dunk cut Sacramento's lead to 99-86 with 3:47 to play. Westphal wanted to send Evans back into the game, but he couldn't.
"It was real hard not to put him back into the game when they were pressing us and we were running out of ball-handlers, but doctor's orders are doctor's orders," Westphal said.
Back-to-back turnovers by the Pacers led to baskets by the Kings and ended the threat.
"We just didn't execute well," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. "We didn't have poise on the offensive end and a lot of those poor offensive possessions -- blocked shots and turnovers -- led to run-outs for them. So a lot of their buckets were a result of poor offensive execution."
The teams shot a combined 14 for 51 in the first quarter. ... Evans entered the game with 4:40 left in the first quarter. ... Butler's mascot, an English Bulldog named Butler Blue II, made an appearance during a break in the second quarter. Butler beat Wisconsin in the Round of 16 on Thursday in the NCAA tournament. ... Pacers G Darren Collison had made 27 straight free throws before missing one in the third quarter.