Knicks reach playoff breaking point as injuries mount against Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Shortly after Isaiah Hartenstein took a hard fall early in Game 4, he felt a numbing sensation in his hand. Hartenstein had trouble lifting his arm up at halftime.

After the game, Hartenstein used one hand to take off his jersey. X-rays on his shoulder came back negative.

“It’s probably just like a nerve thing,” Hartenstein said after the KnicksGame 4 loss. “I’ll be fine.”

You can add Hartenstein’s shoulder to a long list of injuries befalling the Knicks at the moment.

Jalen Brunson’s foot. OG Anunoby’s hamstring. Mitchell Robinson’s ankle. Julius Randle’s shoulder. Bojan Bogdanovic’s ankle.

The Knicks have been able to weather their way through various injuries to key players this season. But on Sunday, it seemed like the downstream effects of those injuries caught up with New York.

The Knicks seemed two or three steps slow from the start of Game 4, and it snowballed from there. They trailed by 30 or more for most of the game in one of the most lopsided playoff loses in franchise history.

None of the Knicks would use their injuries as an excuse on Sunday. But it’s clear that the team is reaching a breaking point.

Brunson doesn’t have the same lift/burst on offense due to the foot ailment. He’s hurt much more than he’d ever divulge publicly.

The Knicks haven’t been able to replace Anunoby’s production on both sides of the ball. And they’ll enter Tuesday’s pivotal Game 5 with a starting center dealing with numbness in his hand.

Maybe they can get a boost from the home crowd on Tuesday and find a way to win two of the next three games.

If they can’t do that, the autopsy of this Knicks season will invariably focus on the heavy minutes played by key players.

It’s something that has followed Tom Thibodeau from Chicago to Minnesota and New York. He overtaxes his teams in the regular season.

This season doesn’t fit neatly into that narrative. The Knicks were dealing with injuries to Robinson, Randle, Anunoby, Hartenstein and others throughout the year.

So Thibodeau had to play his best players big minutes. And no Knick ranked in the top 10 in minutes per game in the regular season.

But some fans and media will see what happened Sunday as the sum of all of those minutes in the regular season. The players don’t seem to see it that way.

“I think for us it has nothing to do with the minutes. It's more of getting our mental state right to be who we are and that's what we need to do for next game,” Donte Divincenzo said Sunday when asked if the Knicks were tired after all of the minutes played over the course of the season.

Josh Hart also disagreed with the idea that the Knicks were tired from all of the minutes played and close games in the postseason.

“At the end of the day, like I said, it’s the playoffs. You’ve got to find it,” Hart said after Game 4. “That’s something that we didn’t do today. I put that on my shoulders, someone who brings energy, brings hustle, the kind of things I didn’t do today.

“(Now), it’s time to get better. It’s rest and recovery. Mentally, we’ve got to make sure we’re prepared to do everything we need to do to get a win on Tuesday.”