NBA: Pacers pounce on depleted Knicks in Game 4 to tie series

NBA: Pacers pounce on depleted Knicks in Game 4 to tie series

/ 11:42 AM May 13, 2024

Tyrese Haliburton Pacers beat Knicks Game 4 NBA Playoffs

Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton celebrates on the bench during the second half of Game 4 against the New York Knicks in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Sunday, May 12, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

INDIANAPOLIS — After three games that went down to the wire, the Indiana Pacers were off and running early in Game 4.

The shorthanded New York Knicks just didn’t have the legs to keep up.

Tyrese Haliburton scored 20 points, T.J. McConnell finished with 15 points and 10 assists and the Pacers routed the Knicks 121-89, using the third-largest playoff victory in the franchise’s NBA history to even the series at 2-2.

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Game 5 will be played Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.

“All we did was do our job,” Haliburton said after finishing with six rebounds, five assists and four 3-pointers. “When you’re at home, you have to protect home court, so we did our job. We understand the magnitude of Game 5 and we’ll be prepared for that one.”

READ: NBA: Nembhard’s late 3 lift Pacers over Knicks in Game 3

The first three games all came down to key plays in the final three minutes.

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Sunday’s provided a different twist. Indiana led by as much as 43 — the largest deficit any playoff team has faced in these playoffs — and fell just short of matching its two largest NBA postseason victories, a 34-point blowout over Cleveland in April 2018 and a 33-point win over the Lakers in the 2000 NBA Finals.

And while Indiana could seemingly do nothing wrong, the Knicks couldn’t do anything right.

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Pascal Siakam and Obi Toppin each scored 14 points, Aaron Nesmith grabbed 12 rebounds and the Pacers shot 56.8% from the field, 45.2% on 3-pointers and erased their only deficit of the game, 2-0, just 44 seconds into the game.

The Knicks, who again played without four key players because of injuries, looked fatigued.

Alec Burks finished with 20 points for New York. Brunson, who entered the day with a league-best 34.6 points per game in the postseason, scored only 18 on a day the Knicks shot 33.7% from the field, 18.9% on 3s and flirted with posting the worst playoff loss in franchise history. The record, 41, came at Chicago in April 1991.

Brunson wasn’t the only one struggling. Donte DiVincenzo, who had 35 points in Game 3, scored just seven on Sunday. The two guards were a combined 9 of 30 from the field and 1 of 11 on 3s.

READ: NBA: Pacers’ Carlisle says ‘small-market teams deserve fair shot’

“We can talk about fresher legs and you can give us all the pity we want,” Brunson said. “Yeah, we’re short-handed, but that doesn’t matter right now. We have what we have. So there’s no we’re short-handed, there’s no excuse. We lose, we lose. That’s what that was.”

Once again, the Pacers fed off the energy of a nearly full Gainbridge Fieldhouse, where they are now 5-0 with Game 6 coming back to Indianapolis on Friday. Those watching from courtside included Indiana-born singer John Mellencamp, Indianapolis 500 winners Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti and former Pacers stars Dale Davis and Derrick McKey.

What they witnessed was the most dominant performance in the series.

Without forwards OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic and Julius Randle as well as center Mitchell Robinson, New York produced a 14-point first quarter and a 41-point first half — its two lowest totals through the first 10 playoff games this season.

A predictable result ensued.

“We started slowly, they made shots, got a big lead and it snowballed,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought we missed some wide-open shots early that probably took some energy out of us and we can’t allow that to happen.”

The Pacers did not make that mistake.

Haliburton’s first 3 gave Indiana the lead for good at 5-2 and the Pacers followed with a decisive 29-7 first-quarter spurt that made it 34-11.

New York never recovered. It cut the deficit to 36-19 early in the second, only to see Indiana answer with 10 straight points before extending the halftime margin to 69-41.

Things only got worse in the second half.

Indian led 101-63 after three quarters, a deficit so large both teams rested their starters the entire fourth quarter. Indiana’s 43-point lead in the fourth quarter marked the third time this season it’s led by at least that margin and the first time New York trailed by that much since Dec. 5, 2019, a span of 388 games.

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But to the Pacers, this was not a moment to celebrate; just a step on a journey they hope to continue when they return to New York.

“We did what we needed to do, protect home court,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “I’m not going to get into a dissertation about how great we are as a team because we’re only halfway to our goal. We’ve got to understand that and have a great level of humility for what’s coming Tuesday and be braced for it.”

TAGS: Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks

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