Knicks steal Game 1 behind another surreal Villanova night

The New York Knicks gave their fans another cardiac night, securing a thrilling 121-117 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of the second round series, with Jalen Brunson once again stealing the spotlight and etching his name in the record books.

Brunson had a remarkable performance, scoring 43 points in the game. This achievement also solidifies his place in NBA history, as he becomes only the fourth player ever to score 40 or more points in four consecutive playoff games. The last player to accomplish this feat was none other than Michael Jordan during the 1993 NBA Finals. Joining Jordan in this elite group are Knick legend Bernard King and Hall of Famer Jerry West, making Brunson’s accomplishment all the more impressive and noteworthy.

The game itself was a throwback to the classic Knicks-Pacers matchups of the 90s, characterized by intense competition and nail-biting moments. With 8 lead changes and 12 ties, neither team managed to establish a double-digit lead throughout the game.

Brunson scored a staggering 21 points in the fourth quarter alone. However, it wasn’t just his scoring prowess that sealed the deal for the Knicks. A controversial call against the Pacers, followed by a monumental three-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo, proved to be the turning point of the game.

With the score deadlocked at 115 and the clock ticking down, Brunson attempted a crucial pass to DiVincenzo, only for the ball to be deflected by Aaron Nesmith. The referees’ decision to call a kicked ball violation against the Pacers left them unable to challenge the call due to regulations. To add to the drama, the referees later admitted to making the wrong call prior to the game.

Capitalizing on the contentious call, Brunson assisted DiVincenzo, who drained a three-pointer, giving the Knicks a narrow 118-115 lead with just 40 seconds left on the clock.

“I felt it, I believe every shot that I shoot is going in.”

– Donte DiVincenzo

However, the Pacers refused to go down without a fight, with Pascal Siakam’s two-pointer cutting the deficit to one with 26 seconds left. In a tense moment, Brunson committed a turnover with a costly bad pass, giving the Pacers a golden opportunity to snatch victory.

But fate intervened once more as Myles Turner was called for a moving screen against DiVincenzo, sparking outrage from the Pacers. Despite their attempts to challenge the call, the referees’ decision stood, allowing Brunson to seal the deal with crucial free throws and compound the Pacers’ frustration.

Donte DiVincenzo finished with 25 points, showcasing his scoring prowess on the playoff stage. Not far behind was Josh Hart, who delivered a stellar all-around performance with 24 points, 13 rebounds, and 8 assists, marking a playoff career high for him. Additionally, OG Anunoby and Isaiah Hartenstein contributed 13 points each, further bolstering the Knicks’ offensive firepower.

Once again, the Villanova trio of Brunson, Hart, and DiVincenzo proved to be the backbone of the team’s success. With significant playing time, Josh Hart logged another full 48-minute game, while Brunson and DiVincenzo each saw 44 minutes on the court. Anunoby also played a crucial role, logging 42 minutes, while Hartenstein shared minutes with Mitchell Robinson in the frontcourt rotation.

However, Coach Thibodeau opted to rely heavily on his starters, offering limited playing time to the bench players. Robinson and Miles McBride saw just 12 and 11 minutes, respectively, while Precious Achiuwa only played for 4 minutes. As a result, the Knicks’ bench was outscored by a significant margin of 46-3, highlighting the team’s reliance on its starting lineup to carry the load in critical playoff moments.

The Pacers put up a formidable effort, led by Myles Turner, who notched an impressive 23 points. Pascal Siakam also made significant contributions with 19 points, adding to the team’s offensive output. However, Tyrese Haliburton struggled to find his rhythm offensively, finishing with just 6 points on a 2-6 shooting from the field. Despite his scoring woes, Haliburton displayed his playmaking ability with 8 assists and showcased his defensive prowess with 4 steals.

Former Knick Obi Toppin made his presence felt off the bench for the Pacers, contributing 12 points to the team’s effort. Toppin’s highlight dunk between the legs in the fourth quarter added an electrifying moment to the game, showcasing his athleticism and providing a spark for his team when they needed it most.

The Knicks found themselves trailing 94-85 early in the fourth quarter, facing a significant deficit. However, they quickly regained momentum with a remarkable 10-2 run to claw their way back into the game.

Throughout the game, the Pacers held the lead for the majority of the time. Despite their efforts, they were unable to establish a commanding advantage over the Knicks. Each time the Pacers surged ahead, the Knicks responded with resilience, preventing their opponents from pulling too far ahead and staying within striking distance.

Late in the second quarter, the Knicks found themselves trailing by 5 points. However, they managed to tie the game at 46 with some impressive plays executed by DiVincenzo and Anunoby. The Pacers responded with 9 straight points, but the Knicks refused to back down. As the buzzer sounded to signal the end of the first half, Hartenstein delivered a remarkable 46-foot jumper that found its mark, injecting a surge of energy and momentum into the Knicks’ squad heading into halftime.

The Knicks committed a total of 15 turnovers in the game, compared to just 8 by the Pacers. This discrepancy highlights an area of concern for the Knicks, as turnovers can often prove costly in tightly contested matchups. Moving forward, they will need to focus on improving their ball security and minimizing errors to avoid potentially detrimental consequences in future games.

In a series that promises to be fiercely contested, the Knicks have drawn first blood and will look to carry their momentum into game 2. With history on their side, having won game one of a second-round series for the first time since 2000, the Knicks are poised to make a statement as they continue their quest for playoff glory.

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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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