Brunson leads Knicks past Pacers after scoring 40 and earning All-Star nod
In a thrilling clash against the Indiana Pacers, the New York Knicks secured their ninth consecutive victory with a hard-fought win of 109-105. Jalen Brunson, the maestro of the night, delivered a staggering 40-point performance, solidifying his place as a newly-minted All-Star reserve while Donte DiVincenzo scored 20.
In the waning moments of the game, adversity struck as Brunson took a hit to the face, a moment inexplicably overlooked by the referees. This oversight proved costly, giving the Pacers a narrow 100-99 lead, promptly exploited by Jalen Smith for an uncontested dunk.
However, rather than succumbing to this setback, Brunson answered back with a graceful floater, effortlessly piercing the Pacers’ defense. This pivotal play not only reclaimed the lead for the Knicks but also served as the catalyst for an electrifying 7-0 run, ultimately securing the game. Brunson’s ability to turn adversity into inspiration demonstrated the true essence of a player who thrives under pressure.
Prior to the game, Brunson received the momentous news of his All-Star reserve selection, a first-time honor for the talented player. Overwhelmed with emotion, Brunson struggled to find words to describe his feelings, as the crowd erupted in “MVP” chants. He joins teammate Julius Randle as a reserve on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
With four key players missing (Randle, OG Anunoby, Quentin Grimes and Mitchell Robinson), coach Thibodeau played a short lineup using just three bench players.
The Knicks, trailing by 8 early in the fourth quarter, orchestrated a remarkable comeback, storming the Pacers with an 18-4 run. This surge saw them taking a 97-91 lead with just over four minutes left to play.
Precious Achiuwa and Isaiah Hartenstein played pivotal roles in the Knicks’ success, contributing 12 points each and combining for an impressive 35 rebounds, with each player securing 8 offensive rebounds. Their dominance in the paint was a key factor in the Knicks’ ability to control the boards as they out-rebounded their opponent 60-44.
“We got bullied on the glass and it’s disappointing because we’re a very capable rebounding team and this is the main thing that we talked about with this game. So we failed on the boards, for sure, and it’s obviously the difference in the game.”
– Rick Carlisle (Pacers coach)
Miles McBride, coming off the bench, scored 16 points and played a crucial role in the fourth quarter nailing two three-pointers during the comeback.
Despite being the league’s top-scoring team with an average of 121 points per game, the Pacers were limited to just 105 points by the Knicks’ staunch defense. Jalen Smith led the Pacers’ efforts with 20 points off the bench, while Pascal Siakam and Aaron Nesmith contributed 18 and 17 points, respectively.
Former Knick Obi Toppin made a return to Madison Square Garden, scoring 12 points and receiving cheers from the appreciative crowd.
The victory marks the Knicks’ ninth consecutive win and an impressive 15-2 record since January. They maintain their hold on the third spot in the Eastern Conference, standing 0.5 games ahead of the Cavaliers and trailing the second-place Milwaukee Bucks by just 0.5 games.
Up-next: The Knicks (32-17) will host the Lakers (25-25) on Saturday from 8:30 pm.