A league first: The NBA plays a game in India
The NBA made one of Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive’s biggest hopes a reality.
And a long-awaited debut in India went longer than planned.
T.J. Warren hit the shot that put Indiana ahead for good with 1:03 remaining, and the Pacers beat the Kings 132-131 in overtime on Friday in the first NBA game ever played in India.
A three-game schedule Friday included the Houston Rockets-Los Angeles Clippers in Honolulu and the Brooklyn Nets hosting Brazilian club Franca. Brooklyn’s Kyrie Irving is not expected to play after sustaining a facial fracture late last month.
The significance of the Kings-Pacers event was enormous for Ranadive, a native of India.
“This is a historic day, but for me it’s a dream come true,” Ranadive said at a news conference before the game in Mumbai. “I left Bombay when I was 17 years old and literally I had $50 in my pocket, so to come back here with my NBA team and also bring my friend (Indiana owner) Herb Simon with his team and to play an actual NBA game is beyond my wildest, wildest imagination.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum were also at the game, which the league pulled off in a smaller-than-usual arena in part by bringing in a court, scoreboards, seats and even putting together locker rooms.
The Pacers and Kings will play again there Saturday. The league is also playing preseason games in China and Japan this season.
“I get so excited about it because it’s all opportunity,” Tatum said. “It’s all opportunity that we see in terms of growing this game of basketball and growing the NBA on a global basis. The time is now to take advantage of these opportunities. We have people on the ground in these places who are very, very capable.”
The league has an NBA Academy and an NBA Basketball School — a tuition-based development program — in India already, with plans to add more. But bringing the actual game to India is certainly one of the biggest steps in growing the game in a country that’s on track to pass China as the most populous in the world within a decade.
“These games are not just a one-time thing,” Tatum said. “We will continue to build off of this.”
Friday’s preseason games:
ROCKETS 109, CLIPPERS 96
In Honolulu, the Los Angeles Clippers’ new superstar duo isn’t available yet, and the Houston Rockets aren’t ready to use theirs.
At some point, those will be two of the teams that following a summer of change around the NBA can put a pair of All-Stars into a championship-contending lineup.
In the meantime, James Harden can still deliver a dazzling one-man show.
The league’s leading scorer had 37 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and a role in the league’s new coach’s challenge, leading Houston to a 109-96 victory over the Clippers.
Houston gave Russell Westbrook another game off while he recovers from knee surgery in the spring, hoping to get the former Oklahoma City point guard onto the floor when it heads to Japan to play a pair of exhibition games against Toronto.
Los Angeles is easing Kawhi Leonard into the season after he led the Raptors to the NBA championship, and Paul George is still recovering from shoulder surgery and not ready for contact.
PACERS 132, KINGS 131, OT
Warren scored 30 points for Indiana, Domantas Sabonis scored 21 and Malcolm Brogdon had 14 assists for the Pacers — who rallied from a 21-point first-half deficit and outscored the Kings 7-0 in the final 73 seconds of regulation just to force overtime.
Jeremy Lamb added 20 for Indiana, which won despite never holding a lead in the final three quarters of regulation.
Buddy Hield scored 28 points and Harrison Barnes added 21 for Sacramento.
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