Breaking down the key points to Knicks' Game 2 win over Pacers, and what's to come in Indiana

The Knicks head to Indiana with a 2-0 series lead. You already know that they’ve gotten big performances from Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart. But there were other pivotal factors in the games at the Garden, factors that could impact Games 3 and 4 in Indianapolis.

Below, Brendan Brown – a three-decade veteran of the NBA (coaching, scouting, broadcasting) – breaks down what he saw in Game 2 and what’s relevant for the games in Indiana this weekend.


BROWN: "Well, it starts with (Jalen) Brunson warming up at halftime, and the Knicks just take off. The way it happened was very reminiscent of Game 2 of the Sixers series (30-21 NYK), where the Knicks were excellent on defense, and got rebounds which put them in transition for threes. The Pacers starters were anemic in the 3rd (4/14- 28.6 percent) (0/4- 0 percent) (0/1- 0 percent). (Andrew) Nembhard had three of the four made shots. And this was coming off the 73-point first half. So what happened???

"In the first two games, the Knick interior defenders continue to meet the Pacers on several drives about six feet from the basket. There is legit contact -- but it’s the playoffs -- and the Knicks are contesting many shots in the paint. Different Pacers are looking to get to the rim and the glass. They get cut off far away, or challenged on a layup that would be a very long layup. These aren’t floaters – they’re hard drives that are denied.

"You have to remember that the Pacers were first in paint points during the regular season. They shoot threes at a good clip, but they rely on the paint. With every interior miss, the Knicks were able to get out and push. (Donte) DiVincenzo is great again in the third – he scores 12 points and makes big baskets in the flow. The Knicks get two big blocks; running off a block is almost easier than running off a steal. So they get easy offense in the quarter.


BROWN: "They combined to shoot 10-for-29 (34.4 percent) and went 0-for-5 from beyond the arc and 0-for-3 from the free-throw line. These subpar combined numbers show the strength of the Knicks’ interior defense throughout the game. You have to give some credit to (Precious) Achiuwa for playing the last 15 minutes and guarding Siakam a lot. So, if you are the Knicks, are you saying before the game that we will hold two of their top three scorers to zero threes or made free throws? That you will hold those two players to three free throw attempts? Major effort by the Knicks.

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle argues with an official in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden.
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle argues with an official in the fourth quarter against the New York Knicks during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

"Siakam relies on his one-on-one drives in isolations. (OG) Anunoby made him veer from the paint in some of those plays. The help defenders are cutting him off far away. All defenders are keeping him from a straight drive to the rim. Turner was coming off a big Milwaukee series. He plays a lot of pick & pop -- a Knick defensive weakness -- but he is only 2-of-8 from three in these games; he really isn’t getting clean looks from three. Four attempts per game isn’t a ton.

"(Tyrese) Haliburton had a good game – Nembhard hit seven of nine attempts; but the Knicks are containing the Pacers’ entire front line. And that matters, because the Knicks are making runs against the Pacers’ starters, not the Indiana bench. Can the Knicks contain Siakam and Turner in Indiana? We’ll see..


BROWN: "So in Game 1, the Knicks ran about 25 set plays. They tried to set up Brunson in different ways, and it was all pretty good. From the start of Game 2, the Knicks surprisingly played Indiana’s tempo; that wasn’t great by the time we got to halftime. Knicks were down, 73-63.

"But when they had possessions in the 'flow' -- not in the fast-break or a halfcourt set -- they moved well without the ball. They ran a ton of high-post split games to free up DiVincenzo and Brunson, even Anunoby – all with (Isaiah) Hartenstein as the passer. He ends up with eight assists and just one turnover, and he made great passes that required precision.

"When the Knicks acquired Hartenstein, I watched eight of his Clippers games. I also called Jay Larranaga, an assistant with the Clippers (and a former Knicks G League coach). The concept here was that Hartenstein was a plus passer. He played on an excellent bench unit with the Clippers that featured good three-point shooters (such as Luke Kennard). So that was kind of his thing. Set a pick and roll screen, short roll and find the open guy. Some people thought he would be a 3-point shooter -- but he only had 30 3-point attempts that previous year. His passing was certainly a strength. Hartenstein had a little of that going with the bench unit at the end of last year; but the reality of it is that he hasn’t been utilized this way enough in general. Last night shows that.

"And thankfully, this flow offense was very important as they Knicks shot 57 percent overall; all five starters shot 50 percent or better. That’s extremely hard to do in any game, let alone in a playoff series."


BROWN: "So McBride was unreal in Game 1 of the Sixers series (21 pts), and played great defense in the fourth quarter of Game 4; both efforts contributed heavily to Knicks wins. But in what is called 'an effective playoff game,' he is now 2-for-8 in the playoffs. The effective playoff game combines individual stats into win shares in total. Ironically, (Immanuel) Quickley was 2-for-8 in last year’s playoffs before getting injured. Deuce was a plus 37 in Game 1 against the Sixers; since then, he’s been a minus 61. That leaves him at minus 24 overall.

Mar 31, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) brings the ball up court during the second quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Madison Square Garden.

"His shooting numbers are still decent (44 percent overall and 39 percent from three), but in this series he is struggling to defend (T.J.) McConnell. That was also the case in the regular season. When he played in the second half of Game 2, he was taken off of McConnell -- and matched with (Ben) Sheppard. With the Knicks so severely down on guys, McBride needs to produce on offense and – more importantly – by guarding people.

"Once again, the Indiana bench was spectacular. After going 21-for-34 (61.7 percent) in Game 1, they registered an 18-for-29 night in Game 2. The points they are putting up is one issue, but the ease with how they are doing it is a bigger issue. As a group, the Indiana bench had 15 assists against just two turnovers in Game 2; McConnell was running free with 12 of those assists. It makes you think that Rick Carlisle should just let the bench play; they have been solid plus-minus guys compared to the Indiana starters …


BROWN: "The severity of Anunoby’s hamstring injury could determine the rest of the series. After watching all the replays after the game, I kind of think that it’s a little more severe than I’d originally thought. Before the game, I talked to an NBA guy about the Knicks’ lack of depth and about the biggest problem here would be if one of the starters got hurt, because then what? Well, here we are.

"From watching the Milwaukee series, I thought there was a significant difference in how the Pacers played at home compared to their play on the road;they had one good game in Milwaukee. They run harder, they shoot better, they have great energy and they can get into those frenzies that create a 12-2 run at home. The younger players are more confident.

"So the Knicks can win in there, because we have seen the sporadic nature of Indiana’s fourth quarter offense. (Last night, it was really the third quarter.) Considering Hart’s comments about Indiana, I would expect a loud building to become a possessed building. And this sounds wild, but Caitlin Clark is the most powerful person in sports right now and she was part of their show for Game 3 against the Bucks. My dad (Hubie Brown) called the game and said she creates major electricity for their fans. If the Knicks are without OG, these games could be very difficult. Let’s see how it unfolds…