What injuries? Jalen Brunson explodes for 44, Knicks crush Pacers by 30 to take 3-2 series lead

2024 NBA Playoffs - Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks
2024 NBA Playoffs - Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks

For two games, watching the Knicks felt more like watching a Walking Dead episode than an NBA game. They were limping around and the bodies were piling up.

Back home in the electric energy of Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night, the Knicks surged back to life.

Jalen Brunson showed his struggles were more about his foot injury — which looked nonexistent on Tuesday — than any defensive adjustment by the Pacers as he went off for 44 points.

It sparked a dominant Knicks performance, who pulled away in the second quarter and never looked back, winning 121-91. That puts the Knicks up 3-2 in the series and sets up a potential closeout game Friday night in Indiana.

It wasn’t just Brunson who found his form again, everything that worked for the Knicks in the first two games seemed to return. New York owned the glass and finished with 20 offensive rebounds — 10 of them from Isaiah Hartenstein, who had his best game of the series. New York’s defense was physical and aggressive again. Josh Hart was taking the ball coast-to-coast and finished with 18 points.

Things got ugly for Indiana starting the first quarter, and by the second 12 minutes the rout was on.

The Pacers were completely rattled in the first half, and everything they did right during the previous two games at home came apart under pressure in Madison Square Garden. In the first half alone the Knicks had 38 points in the paint (16 more than the Pacers), turned nine Pacers turnovers into 14 points, and the Knicks had 12 offensive rebounds — New York got a second chance on 50% of their missed shots in the half.

New York led by 15 at the half and never looked back.

Indiana made a third-quarter run and cut the lead to seven, and then, in the blink of an eye, it was 20 again, thanks to Knicks offensive rebounds and Pacers blown defensive assignments that left shooters wide open.

If Indiana is going to extend this series Friday night at home, it needs a lot more from Tyrese Haliburton. He was simply too passive, looking to pass and set up teammates rather than score and the result was neither happened. Haliburton finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting with five assists — he has to take command of Game 6. Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 22.