Jalen Brunson’s Willis Reed moment inspires the Knicks in Game 2 win over Pacers

The New York Knicks took a 2-0 lead in the series after defeating the Indiana Pacers 130-121 last night at the Garden, marking a significant moment in the series as Jalen Brunson made a triumphant return to the court.

The game took a dramatic turn early on when Brunson exited the court late in the 1st quarter after sustaining a foot injury. His absence seemed to embolden the Pacers, who capitalized on the opportunity to establish a 73-63 lead by halftime.

However, just as the teams were resting in the locker rooms for halftime, Brunson made a stunning return to the floor, much to the delight of the Madison Square Garden crowd. His comeback evoked memories of the iconic Willis Reed moment from the 1970 NBA Finals, which occurred on the same day exactly 54 years ago. The crowd erupted in a frenzy, fueling the Knicks’ determination to rally back in the second half.

 

The third quarter of the game witnessed a pivotal shift in momentum as the Pacers initially surged ahead, scoring the first two points and claiming their largest lead of the game. However, the Knicks quickly responded with an impressive 27-6 run, propelling them to a commanding 90-81 lead with under 4 minutes remaining in the quarter.

Buoyed by their newfound momentum, the Knicks continued to dominate the court, thwarting the Pacers’ attempts to regain control of the game. Despite the Pacers narrowing the gap to just one point at 102-101, they were unable to equalize or reclaim the lead from the Knicks’ grasp.

Following Josh Hart’s clutch three-pointer, the Knicks seized a four-point advantage, putting pressure on the Pacers to respond. Pascal Siakam stepped up for Indiana, sinking a two-pointer to narrow the deficit.

However, Jalen Brunson extended the Knicks’ lead to 110-105 with a remarkable 25-foot step-back jumper. The Pacers didn’t backed down, as Andrew Nembhard promptly answered with a timely three-pointer to keep the game within reach.

 

Undeterred, Donte DiVincenzo further solidified the Knicks’ lead with a crucial three-pointer, extending their advantage to 115-110 with just 4 minutes and 20 seconds remaining on the clock. The Knicks’ defensive efforts then paid off, allowing Precious Achiuwa to capitalize on a dunk opportunity, further extending their lead to 117-110.

Despite the ample time remaining on the clock, the Pacers struggled to mount a comeback. They were unable to find a solution to the Knicks’ offensive onslaught, which included key jump shots from Brunson and a late three-pointer from DiVincenzo. Additionally, the Knicks’ proficiency from the free-throw line further compounded the Pacers’ challenges, ultimately preventing them from closing the gap and securing a comeback victory.

 

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks with 29 points, while Donte DiVincenzo closely followed with 28 points of his own. However, the standout performance of the game belonged to OG Anunoby, who delivered a monstrous performance with 28 points, 22 of which were accumulated in the first half alone. Anunoby’s contributions were not limited to scoring, as he also made significant impacts on the defensive end.

 

Unfortunately, Anunoby’s performance was marred by an untimely hamstring injury late in the third quarter. His departure from the court cast a shadow of uncertainty over his availability for future games, leaving the Knicks anxiously awaiting updates on his injury status. Losing Anunoby, especially amidst an already depleted roster, would undoubtedly be a significant blow to the team’s playoff aspirations.

The Knicks have already been grappling with the absence of key players throughout the postseason. With Julius Randle sidelined since February due to injury, the team suffered further setbacks with the playoff losses of Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic.

Josh Hart’s remarkable resilience was on full display once again as he logged his second consecutive 48-minute game. Despite the grueling demands of extended playing time, Hart showcased his versatility and impact on both ends of the court, contributing 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 7 assists to the Knicks’ cause.

 

Meanwhile, Isaiah Hartenstein delivered once again, tallying 14 points and 12 rebounds, including 4 offensive boards. His efficient shooting, going 5-7 from the field, coupled with a perfect 4-4 performance from the free-throw line, underscored his effectiveness in the paint. Hartenstein’s all-around contribution, including his passing acumen with 8 assists, further bolstered the Knicks’ efforts on both ends of the floor.

The Knicks’ collective offensive efficiency was a key factor in their victory, as they shot an impressive 57% from the field and nearly 82% from the free-throw line. Their ability to capitalize on scoring opportunities and convert crucial free throws down the stretch proved pivotal in securing the win. Amidst the intensity of postseason competition, executing on these fundamental aspects of the game becomes even more critical, and the Knicks demonstrated their proficiency in these areas when it mattered most.

In the absence of Mitchell Robinson, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau turned to Precious Achiuwa to fill the void, granting him a significant 28 minutes of playing time. Achiuwa made the most of his opportunity, contributing 8 points and 5 rebounds, including 3 crucial offensive boards. His presence provided valuable support for both Hartenstein and Anunoby, ensuring that the Knicks maintained their intensity and competitiveness in the frontcourt.

Meanwhile, Miles McBride also saw extended minutes – 20 – on the court, particularly during the second quarter when Jalen Brunson was out.

Despite the absence of several key players, including Robinson and Bogdanovic, Coach Thibodeau has remained steadfast in his rotation strategy. Alec Burks was briefly inserted into the lineup, seeing action limited to nearly a minute at the end of the second quarter.

The Pacers were led by Tyrese Haliburton with 34 points and 9 assists while shooting an impressive 7-11 from beyond the arc but his efforts fell short. Haliburton’s improved performance ultimately did not translate into a victory for the Pacers, as he was outplayed by Brunson, who delivered a game-changing performance for the Knicks.

Myles Turner struggled to make an impact for the Indiana Pacers, shooting just 3-11 from the field and finishing the game with a modest 6 points and 7 rebounds.

On the other hand, former Knick Obi Toppin emerged as a key contributor for the Pacers, making a significant impact off the bench. Toppin played 20 minutes and scored 20 points on 7-10 shooting from the field, including 2-4 from beyond the arc. His impressive performance provided a much-needed offensive spark for the Pacers, earning him a favorable plus-minus rating of +9.

TJ McConnel and Ben Sheppart made valuable contributions off the bench, combining for 21 points. Once again, the Pacers’ bench outscored the Knicks’ bench by a significant margin of 46-12.

The Pacers’ head coach, Rick Carlisle, expressed frustration with the officiating during the game and was ejected after receiving two technical fouls. His discontent stemmed from a double-dribble call that was reversed in favor of the Knicks, despite it being the correct decision.

Following the game, Carlisle submitted a formal complaint regarding 78 calls made against his team in the first two games of the series. This action comes after his earlier statement following game 1, where he had indicated that he would refrain from commenting on the referees.

 

Reggie Miller made a return to Madison Square Garden, serving as a commentator for TNT during the game. During his visit, he signed Spike Lee’s iconic posters dating back to the 90s, evoking nostalgia for the Knicks’ fans. However, Miller also faced familiar taunts from the MSG crowd, who chanted “F—- you, Reggie”. Adding to the lighthearted exchange, Josh Hart approached Miller before the game’s conclusion and jokingly remarked, “I think they said ‘F—- you’,” eliciting smiles from both parties.

 

With just a single day off between games, the series will transition to Indianapolis for Game 3, set to take place on Friday night. The impending matchup raises questions surrounding the status of OG Anunoby’s injury and the condition of Jalen Brunson’s foot, both of which could significantly impact the outcome of the series.

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Last 10 games:

May 19:
109 - 130
L
vs
May 17:
116 - 103
L
@
May 14:
121 - 91
W
vs
May 12:
121 - 89
L
@
May 10:
111 - 106
L
@
May 08:
130 - 121
W
vs
May 06:
121 - 117
W
vs
May 02:
115 - 118
W
@
Apr 30:
106 - 112
L
vs
Apr 28:
92 - 97
W
@

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