Knicks takeaways from Thursday's 109-105 win over Pacers, including an inspired Jalen Brunson taking over

On the night he was named an All-Star, point guard Jalen Brunson carried the Knicks to a thrilling 109-105 win over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday at Madison Square Garden.

Here are the takeaways...

- The Knicks played shorthanded for the third straight game, as OG Anunoby remained sidelined due to right elbow inflammation and Quentin Grimes was out due to a right knee injury.

With his star small forward still not ready to return, Tom Thibodeau stuck with the starting five of Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Precious Achiuwa, and Isaiah Hartenstein.

- As expected, it was a playoff atmosphere from the start, and the red-hot DiVincenzo picked up right where he left off following Tuesday's career night, knocking down five of his first seven shots from the field (three threes) for 13 first-quarter points.

Indiana's high-powered offense came out flying as well, though, as Pascal Siakam and All-Star starter Tyrese Haliburton combined for 18 points of their own in the opening frame. Haliburton also added three rebounds, three assists, and a block to help the Pacers open a 10-point advantage.

- New York started out hot from behind the arc, but they followed that with a stretch where they missed their last nine attempts and the deficit was quickly pushed to 13. Obi Toppin was providing a nice spark off the bench for the Pacers in his return to MSG, contributing nine points, two rebounds, two blocks, and a steal. 

Brunson knocked down just two field goals in the first, but with the Knicks quickly falling behind he decided to put the team on his back again, adding 13 points in the second to cut the lead down to seven (58-51) heading into the halftime break.

New York also picked things up on the defensive end after a bit of a slow start, limiting the highest-scoring team in the league to just 22 points in the second quarter.

- The Knicks carried that strong defense into the third quarter, and their offense followed suit led by their star point guard. Back-to-back baskets from Brunson followed by an old-fashioned three-point play from Hartenstein brought them within four halfway through the frame.

New York's poor shooting from behind the arc continued, though, pushing their stretch to 17-consecutive misses, until Miles McBride drilled a corner three to end the drought late in the third. The backup point guard added two more baskets down the stretch to keep it a five-point ballgame heading into the final quarter.

- McBride continued carrying the load for the offense until Brunson returned early in the fourth, then seven straight points from the All-Star point guard propelled the Knicks in front for the first time in the second half.

With two minutes remaining, no call was made after Brunson was poked in the eye on the inbound, and Indiana came up with an easy steal to retake a one-point lead. The point guard responded right back again, though, fighting through a contested lay-in to put New York back in front for good.

Despite shooting just 41 percent from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc, the shorthanded Knicks were able to pull out their ninth straight victory. They dominated the glass all night, hauling in a season-high 24 offensive rebounds, and the trio of Hartenstein (19), Hart (12), and Achiuwa (16) all finished in double-digits. 

On the night he was named an All-Star for the first time in his career, Brunson put the team on his back and finished with 40 points on 15-of-30 shooting.

DiVincenzo started out hot, but he made just one more three point attempt the rest of the game, shooting 4-for-16 from behind the arc. McBride stepped up off the bench, drilling three big threes en route to 16 points. 

The Knicks are just a half game behind the Milwaukee Bucks for the second seed in the Eastern Conference.


Upcoming schedule

The Knicks look to stay hot as host LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday night in a nationally televised contest at 8:30 p.m. at the Garden.