Josh Hart: Knicks must maintain 'sense of urgency' to close out Pacers in Game 6

For the second-straight series in the 2024 NBA Playoffs, the Knicks have the opportunity to close out a series on the road in a Game 6.

After dispatching Joel Embiid and the Philadelphia 76ers on their homecourt a fortnight ago, they can lean on some of that experience when trying to slam the door shut on the Indiana Pacers on Friday night.

“Start the game with a sense of urgency,” forward Josh Hart said when asked about the key to ending their series without having to return to Madison Square Garden for a winner-take-all Game 7.

“And we have to maintain that throughout the game,” Hart said after Friday morning’s shootaround. “I think we did that [in Philadelphia] in Game 6, I think we got up as big as like 22 or something like that. And obviously, it ended up being a one-possession game.”

Hart would remember the 22-point margin as his three-pointer with 2:22 left in the first quarter put New York up 33-11. But that lead would evaporate – the Sixers took the lead with 1:38 to play in the half, before building a 10-point lead themselves midway through the third quarter.

“I think we can look back at how we started the game in the first quarter, but we have to build on that momentum throughout the game and not have lulls and gaps,” Hart continued.

One of the players who Indiana is hoping can spark those runs is All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton, who struggled in the three road games this series, but scored 55 points on 22-for-41 shooting (10-for-26 from three) in the two home wins.

“We know Tyrese is gonna come home, aggressive,” Hart said. “They’re a different team at home, we know that going in and we have to make sure we throw that punch first. And when they go on runs, be able to kinda minimize that.”

Inserted into the starting lineup in Game 5, Miles McBride will likely be charged with guarding Haliburton again Friday.

McBride said his job is to “make it as difficult [on him] as I can.”

“Be disruptive, be aggressive, but just understand that he’s a great player and he’s gonna be a lot more aggressive tonight and just try and be mentally ready for that,” the guard said.

McBride added that he thinks he has to “go up a level” to meet the challenge of containing Haliburton at home especially after he attempted just nine shots in 34 minutes in Game 5.

And Hart expects that after getting two days off for the first time this series, Indiana will put in a solid response on the heels of the Knicks’ dominant 30-point win on Tuesday.

“They probably got hammered by questions about physicality, energy, rebounding so we know that’s all they heard for the last two, two and a half days. So we know they’re gonna come out with a renewed sense of energy and physicality,” he said.

Hart added: “This is not an easy team. This is not a team – they’re down 3-2 – that’s gonna lay down and call it a season. We know we gotta handle our business.”

While Hart would love to close out a series at MSG to give Knicks fans a wonderful moment, “ending a series on the road is always fun.”

"Obviously their crowd is gonna be crazy today. If you're able to silence a crowd like that, obviously that’s a great feeling,” he said. “On the road sometimes it's easier to focus, not as many distractions, [it’s] more about the guys in the locker room.

“It’s fun to do that on the road, but at some point – hopefully not this series – we would like to end a playoff series at the Garden.”