It finally happened. The wishes of basketball fans in India became a reality. The first-ever NBA games took place in India and what a spectacle it was to behold! The NSCI Dome was filled with 3000 children from more than 70 schools participating in the Reliance Foundation Jr. NBA Program who cheered both the teams as the players of the Sacramento Kings and the Indiana Pacers underwent their regular pre-game shootaround.
Right from the tip-off, you knew that the game was going to deliver. We had everything that a basketball fan could ask for. There were high flying dunks, there was rugged defense, there was a half-court buzzer-beater, and the game went into overtime as well.
We saw plenty of offense from both teams in a game that saw the Kings come out on top 132-131. T.J. Warren led the scoring charts for the Pacers racking up 30 points on 61% shooting from the field. Buddy Hield held his own too for the Sacramento Kings with 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting. Domantas Sabonis recorded a double double with 21 points and 12 rebounds while Harrison Barnes managed 21 points of his own.
In the first two quarters, it was mostly the Kings who set the tempo of the game. They played some good defense and passed the ball around to get good shots on offense. The likes of Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner were rendered ineffective going forward while De'Aaron Fox kept combining with Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic to get things going for the Kings.
Sacramento were already leading 29-19 at the end of the 1st quarter and things only got better as they kept making shots to lead by as many as 21 points late in the second quarter. Yogi Ferrell made a half-court buzzer-beater to see the Kings head into half-time with the scoreline at 72-59.
It was in the second half where the likes of Warren, Sabonis, and Brogdon got the offense going for the Pacers, catching their opponents off-guard with a quick 9 unanswered points right after the break. The Kings were able to keep hold of the lead after that early breakdown as the 3rd quarter ended with the scoreline reading 97-92 in their favor.
The final quarter of regulation time continued along those lines as both teams exchanged blow for blow. However, the Kings still managed to stay ahead, leading by as many as 7 points as the scoreline read 118-111 with 1:13 left on the clock.
It was then that the Pacers stepped up to the pedestal and changed the outcome of the game. Indiana pulled off some stops while Jeremy Lamb and Turner got a bucket each to cut down the lead to 3 points. Coming off a timeout, the Pacers had a play set in mind, which they executed as Warren drained a trey to tie the game. Turner swatted away Fox's attempt in the closing seconds to force the game into overtime.
The Pacers dominated in overtime as they established the lead and maintained the same throughout to emerge as the victors with only a solitary point proving to be the difference. The final scoreline of the first-ever NBA game in India read 132-131 in favor of the Pacers.
While it was certainly a preseason game, the atmosphere felt like that of a playoff encounter. As an NBA fan in India, you probably couldn't have asked for more. One can only hope that the second game will be as good as this one.