Donte DiVincenzo sinks game-winner to lift Knicks to 121-117 victory over Pacers in Game 1

NEW YORK — Donte DiVincenzo has been here before.

The ball found DiVincenzo behind the three-point line with the game and series on the line in Game 6 of the Knicks’ first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers when he uncorked a bomb from downtown to put the Sixers away and punch New York’s ticket to the second round

The ball found DiVincenzo again late in regulation of Game 1 of the Knicks’ second-round series against the Indiana Pacers on Monday.

Once again, DiVincenzo delivered.

With less than a minute left in the fourth quarter and the game tied at 115, Jalen Brunson had the ball in his hands, and DiVincenzo’s defender, Aaron Nesmith cheated over to help Andrew Nembhard defend the Knicks’ All-Star, who drove toward the rim with the game on the line. Brunson got off the ball and trusted his teammate, dishing to DiVincenzo, who hoisted a go-ahead trey from the left wing.

The shot fell to give the Knicks a three-point lead with just seconds left in the fourth quarter — and on the next possession, DiVincenzo — the savior on offense — drew a moving screen call on Pacers center Myles Turner.

Game, Knicks, a 121-117 victory over the Pacers courtesy of two big plays from big-play DiVincenzo.

Jalen Brunson scored 43 points on 14-of-26 shooting from the field, and DiVincenzo added 25 points on five-of-nine shooting from three-point range, no triple more important than the one he used as the nail in the coffin to bury the Pacers on Monday night.

His bucket helped the Knicks what was setting up to become an upset Pacers victory at Madison Square Garden before the Knicks — in what’s become typical Knicks fashion — came roaring back in the final period.

The Knicks trailed by as many as nine in the fourth period in large part due to the depth of an Indiana Pacers team that deployed a full-court press the large majority of the game.

By halftime, for example, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau played his starters 107 of a possible 120 minutes through the first two quarters. Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle had a more democratic approach, spreading the wealth across a second unit that had four players log double-digit minutes. The Pacers bench outscored the Knicks’ second unit, 46-3, led by TJ McConnell, who scored 18 points off the bench, and former Knick Obi Toppin, whose between-the-legs dunk in transition punctuated a 12-point night off the bench against his former team.

The Knicks played Mitchell Robinson 12 total minutes, Miles McBride 11 minutes and backup forward Precious Achiuwa four minutes in the series opener.

It didn’t matter. The Knicks starters used the regular season and the first round against the 76ers to prepare for heavy workloads late in the season.

Josh Hart, for example, averaged more than 46 minutes in the first round against the Sixers, including the entire 48-minute workload of Game 1 and the entire 48 minutes plus the five-minute overtime period of Game 5.

Of the 120 minutes available to be allocated across all players in the first half, Thibodeau played his starters 107. Five minutes for Miles McBride, four for Precious Achiuwa, and another four for backup big man Mitchell Robinson comprised the bench minutes.

Of the same minutes share through the first two periods, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle gave 16 to backup point guard TJ McConnell, 13 to reserve guard Ben Sheppard, another 10 to former Knicks forward Obi Toppin and eight more to forward-center Isaiah Jackson. As a result, the Pacer bench outscored the Knicks’ reserves, 27-1, in the first half, while minutes continued to build for the Knicks’ starters.

Josh Hart, for example, averaged 46.3 minutes through the six-game first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, including the full 48-minute workload in Game 2, then the full 48 plus the entire five-minute overtime period of Game 5.

Hart played all 48 minutes of Game 1 against the Pacers. Four of the Knicks’ five starters played 42 or more minutes.

Pacers center Myles Turner scored a team-high on 8-of-16 shooting from the field, and Indiana’s All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who was questionable ahead of tipoff with back spasms, tallied just six points and eight assists in 36 minutes of play.

All five Knicks starters scored in double figures.

The Knicks now have a day to recuperate and recover before hosting the Pacers in Game 2 back at The Garden on Wednesday.

DiVincenzo’s heroics saved the day in the series opener, but the Knicks almost lost the opener and will need to tighten up if they are going to protect home court before the series shifts to Indiana in Games 3 and 4.