Jalen Brunson’s 43 Points Led The Knicks To A Game 1 Win Over The Pacers

The New York Knicks drew first blood in the latest chapter of their lengthy playoff rivalry with the Indiana Pacers. Thanks to a big fourth quarter by Jalen Brunson, the Knicks were able to defend their homecourt in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals en route to a 121-117 win.

The first half essentially came down to the Pacers doing all the stuff that they do better than the Knicks. While Brunson (18 points) and Josh Hart (11 points, seven rebounds, two assists, two steals, and a block) had their fingerprints all over the game, the Pacers took a 55-49 lead into the locker room that would have been even larger if not for Isaiah Hartenstein hitting a shot from halfcourt right before the break.

This was because the Pacers did everything they wanted to over the opening 24 minutes. While Tyrese Haliburton and Pascal Siakam only combined for 12 points — their leading scorer, T.J. McConnell, had 10 off the bench — the team had 15 assists on 23 made baskets and hit seven of their 16 attempts from three. Plus Indiana managed to keep New York’s size from imposing itself on the glass, as the Knicks only had two offensive rebounds.

The third quarter went back-and-forth for long stretches. After the Knicks tied things up with 8:18 to go on the heels of an 8-2 burst, the two teams generally kept things close — even as there was a 10-0 Pacers run, New York came back with a response. And after things closed with a flurry, including Obi Toppin breaking out a between-the-legs dunk in his old stomping grounds, Indiana had an 87-82 lead it took into the fourth.

The start of the final quarter featured the Knicks slowly chipping away at the Pacers lead. While Indiana was able to get its lead up to nine points, New York ripped off a 10-2 run to get within striking distance before Aaron Nesmith baptized Mitchell Robinson with one of the filthiest dunks you’ll ever see.

New York kept fighting, although every time they had a chance to tie things up or take the lead, they were just unable to make the final bucket to get them to where they wanted to go. Things finally got tied up at the free throw line, and with just over three minutes left, a steal by OG Anunoby turned into a dunk on the other end to cap off a 7-0 run that finally gave them the lead.

With 94 seconds left, Andrew Nembhard got into the paint and scored a layup to give the lead back to Indiana, but Brunson came right back down the floor and got a bucket to tie things back up at 115. And after a Nembhard miss on the next possession, a potential mistake by the referees — they called a kicked ball on Nesmith that very well might have came off his hand — beget a Donte DiVincenzo three that ignited the Garden and put the Knicks ahead with 40 seconds left.

Siakam came back down and got a layup, and in a bit of bad luck for New York, Brunson got trapped on the sideline on their next possession, tried to chuck the ball off of Haliburton, and had it ricochet and come back off of him. But next time down, DiVincenzo embellished a pick where Myles Turner moved a little and got a foul called on the Pacers’ big man. And eventually, Brunson was able to ice things at the free throw line to give New York the win.

Brunson had 43 points on the night, with 19 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Both of his ex-Villanova teammates were magnificent, with DiVincenzo going for 25 points and Hart putting up 24 points, 13 rebounds, eight assists, two steals, and a block. For Indiana, six players scored in double-figures, led by 23 from Turner. But the most noteworthy performance came from Haliburton, as the All-Star only had six points on 2-for-6 shooting with eight assists, four steals, and two rebounds.

Game 2 between the Knicks and the Pacers will take place on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST on TNT.