NBA: Pacers hope home crowd helps force Game 7 vs Knicks

NBA: Pacers hope home crowd helps force Game 7 vs Knicks

/ 04:09 PM May 17, 2024

 Tyrese Haliburton NBA  Indiana Pacers New York Knicks NBA Playoffs

Tyrese Haliburton #0 of the Indiana Pacers celebrates in the game against the New York Knicks in game three of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the NBA Playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse on May 10, 2024 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Andy Lyons/Getty Images/AFP 

The Indiana Pacers’ NBA season is on the brink. It’s win or it’s over.

So the last playoff team with a perfect home record has to dig deep and make the most of the energy it receives from its own crowd as it tries to rebound from an embarrassing loss at New York with a season-saving win Friday night in Game 6.

“What’s known doesn’t need to be spoken about. Guys know the intensity we have to bring,” Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ve got to have a level of desperation that we’ve never had before, and we’ve got to be ready to go for 48 minutes and understand every possession matters even more than it has all playoffs.”


READ: NBA: Jalen Brunson fires 44, Knicks rout Pacers for 3-2 edge

Getting to this point certainly didn’t occur through happenstance. The young Pacers have provided a difficult challenge for the second-seeded Knicks.

Indiana stopped a franchise-record, 10-game playoff losing streak with a Game 2 victory at Milwaukee in the first round, and then eliminated the Bucks 4-2 for their first series win in a decade. After losing the first two games at New York, the Pacers posted two home wins to even the series.

On Tuesday, though, things went awry.


The Knicks outrebounded, outhustled and outworked the Pacers in a 121-91 blowout. New York moved within a win of reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2000 when it lost to the Pacers in six games.

So the Pacers’ season suddenly comes down to this; keep their 5-0 postseason home record intact and Game 7 goes back to New York. Lose and their breakout season is over.


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

“We’ve got to play harder, we’ve got play with a greater level of execution,” said Indiana coach Rick Carlisle, who helped lead the Dallas Mavericks to an NBA championship in 2011. “If you can’t come up with a ball and have level of possessions for the game, you’re not going to in the second round of the playoffs. We’ve got to do better, much better.”

The Knicks, meanwhile, are trying to advance while playing short-handed.

Three key players — forwards Julius Randle and Bojan Bogdanovic, and center Mitchell Robinson — have missed the entire series after opting for surgeries. None of those three are expected back even if the Knicks return to Madison Square Garden for Sunday’s Game 7.

Defensive stalwart OG Anunoby went down with a hamstring injury in the second half of Game 3. His availability for Game 6 remains unclear after coach Tom Thibodeau said Thursday that Anunoby was doing “light work, very light,” which is an upgrade from earlier this week when Thibodeau said Anunoby was doing work in the pool.

What has worked for the Knicks is All-Star guard Jalen Brunson, who has topped the 40-point mark six times in 11 playoff games, including 44 points on 18-of-35 shooting when the Knicks needed him most Tuesday night.

And with two days off, New York got some extra time to rest while pondering the possibility of facing top-seeded Boston — if it can win one more game.

“I’m definitely excited,” said Brunson, the league’s top scorer in the playoffs at 33.9 points per game. “I was always taught by my parents never to be afraid to fail no matter what the situation is, no matter the ‘higher pressure’ moments or whatever. If you win great, if you lose, learn from it, that’s just my mindset.”

Or get ready for another elimination game Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

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“I think the most important thing is to not get lost in the hyperbole and the distractions and focus and lock into the task at hand, which is winning the game,” Thibodeau said. “So put the necessary work into it and don’t get lost.”

TAGS: Indiana Pacers, New York Knicks

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