Breaking down the key points to Knicks' Game 3 loss to Pacers, and what to expect in Game 4

With the Pacers winning a close Game 3 on their home court a few questions are raised.

Can the Knicks’ bench outplay Indiana’s reserves? Can New York get out to a quick start? What about getting mismatches via pick-and-roll plays?

These are a few factors that Brendan Brown – a three-decade veteran of the NBA (coaching, scouting, broadcasting) – sees as key for Game 4 of Knicks-Pacers on Sunday. Below, Brown analyzes Game 3, the overall series and more as we approach Game 4.


BROWN: “One of the questions coming into the game was how deep Tom Thibodeau would go with his rotation. Jericho Sims seemed like an easy choice as you might need another big with (OG) Anunoby out. Between pace game Indiana plays at home and (Jalen) Brunson leaving the game early in the first quarter, playing an eighth man made sense.

“So Thibodeau turned to Alec Burks, and he delivered. The Knicks led the Pacers in bench points, 18-8, at halftime. (Miles) McBride and Burks were a combined 6-of-8 shooting while the Indiana bench was 4-for-12. This was major. When you think about home court, the pace game, role players play better at home - the Knicks negating that bench push last night was key. McBride was plus-11 in 28 minutes, and he was the only Knick player with a positive plus-minus in Game 3. That suggests his defense was better than in the opening two games.

“Can the Knicks hold down the Pacers bench again in Game 4? That would be very helpful. The Pacers bench shot 39-for-63 (61.9 percent) in the first two games. They went 7-for-22 (31.8 percent) and 0-for-4 from beyond the arc with zero free throw attempts in Game 3. They had six assists to two turnovers in Game 3, way down from 15 assists to two turnovers in Game 2. This bench battle is something to keep an eye on Sunday…


BROWN: “You look at the way another Knicks playoff game was winding down, and you thought the Knicks were going to outexecute Indiana. But the Knicks allowing five offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter were huge. Blowing a nine-point lead in the fourth? Well, that’s a desperate team, down 2-0, trying to make a run in their own building. But that’s playoff basketball…

“The Knicks shot 4-for-19 in the fourth quarter (21 percent); they were 3-for-8 from beyond the arc (37 percent), which means they were 1-for-11 on twos. And that’s what the playoffs can be about; when three-point shooters are run off the line, can they make twos? Three years ago, that happened to the Knicks in the entire Atlanta series. Derrick Rose made twos. But the Knicks couldn’t get going from beyond the arc. Knicks went 5-for-8 from the line; Brunson missed two and Hart missed one. Can’t make them all, but in these close games, every point is vital.

“The Knicks had their lowest assist-to-turnover game of the playoffs in Game 3 (19 assists to 13 turnovers). They tried to keep the Pacers spread out in the fourth quarter with many simple pick-and-roll calls, looking for switches. McBride was used as a screener for Brunson late in the game, and the Pacers handled that fairly well. So, it comes down to another Knick maybe making a key bucket; Donte DiVincenzo had the game of his life/NBA career last night, but he was 1-of-5 in the fourth.

May 10, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) dribbles the ball while Indiana Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith (23) defends during game three of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

I was concerned about Hart being a scorer in the fourth, only because he only took seven shots in the game in his 43 minutes. Hartenstein did not have a field-goal attempt in the fourth. So if the Pacers were doing a good job on Brunson and DiVincenzo, where do you go? This is where you miss Anunoby…


BROWN: ”It has been suggested, primarily since the pandemic, that the NBA has become a “first quarter” league more than a “fourth quarter” league in terms of scoring leading to wins. I believe that has a lot of validity in the regular season - the nature of the schedule, some younger teams not being able to crawl out of a deep hole early on, etc…

“So what does that look like for the Knicks in the playoffs so far? They are 6-3 overall and 4-2 when they get outscored in the first quarter or the score is tied. When they’ve been leading after one quarter, they are 2-1. But they have been behind six out of nine times.

"If you are a scout looking at this, maybe in the regular season, you would say it’s due to bad early game plans; Darvin Ham had this issue with the Lakers this season. But Thibs has good game plans. So what’s the nature of the Knicks' early offense in the playoffs? Brunson has had some good first quarters. But I think he wears guys down later in the game…


  • First quarter: 25.0 PPG (-2.8 differential)

  • Second quarter: 28.5 PPG (+2.1 differential)

  • Third quarter: 29.1 PPG (+0.6 differential)

  • Fourth quarter: 28.2 PPG (+2.0 differential)

“So the first quarter has been the Knicks’ worst offensive quarter, by far. It’s not hurting them, as they are 6-3 overall. Why is that? The Philadelphia and Indiana defensive game plans can’t hold throughout the game and Brunson will dominate his individual matchup later in the game.

"The help schemes break down. The Knicks are resilient and get to the offensive glass in the second halves. And then the defense can lead to good transition offense, and that’s where DiVincenzo gets all the big threes. The defensive rebounding is also a big key here…

May 10, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) dribbles the ball while New York Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein (55) defends during game three of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.


BROWN: “Even though it was a loss, I think the Knicks can take away a lot of good things from the second half. Their defense was excellent (40 percent) on the Pacers home court. They kept the Pacers bench bottled up in the third quarter. The shooting was poor in the fourth quarter, but you only lost a one-possession game.

“In general, you discovered a new rotation player in Burks, the bench had a good night; it’s only 12th among playoff benches in points per game but is third (40.4 percent) in three-point percentage. Can McBride and Burks do it again in Game 4, like they did in the first half last night? They were 1-for-6 (1-for-5 from three) in the second half.

“I would love to see (Isaiah) Hartenstein a little more involved in general; if he does all split-game passing, he is at the elbow or higher and he might not be able to get to the offensive glass as well. But just make it tough for (Myles) Turner. On offense, Turner is only getting a little over four three-point attempts - that’s great for the Knicks…

“The Knicks need to jump on the Pacers in Game 4. The Pacers have a little bit of a front-running quality about themselves, especially at home. You could see the panic in the third quarter during a bad run. If the Knicks can get a great start, it will put the Pacers’ young players under duress for a bulk of the game."