ANOTHER Nail Biter. Another Win. NY 119 Indiana 113

The Knicks had a 21-point at the half, and were having their way with the Indiana Pacers on a Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden — but it turned into another nail biter — as Indiana increased their pressure, and Buddy Hield started hitting 3’s from everywhere pulling Indiana to within 2 points with 3 minutes left, and 3 points with a minute left.

But Jalen Brunson again made clutch drive after clutch drive, RJ Barrett made 2 clutch free throws, and the Knick Defense — led by clutch shot blocking by Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson — held Indiana down for the win.



“It was an unusual game,” said Knick coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “We did a lot of good things to build the lead. But then Hield got going. They made up ground. We turned it over. But we closed it out, and getting the win is the most important thing.”

NY improves to 23-19; Indiana falls to the same record — 23-19. Last year Indiana was 25-57, the first year under coach Rick Carlisle. It has taken him a year and now Indiana is a winning team.

1. Brunson > Haliburton

There was a game within the game because of Knick analyst Wally Sczcerbiak, who taunted Tyrese Haliburton on air after NY beat Indiana a month ago, that Haliburton was a “wanna be All Star”. In that game, Brunson bettered Haliburton. Wally’s comments may have had something to do with so many Knick fans bemoaning the fact that the Knicks didn’t pick Haliburton in the 2020 draft, picking Obi Toppin instead.

Wally’s remarks caused a controversy — and he was apparently suspended from traveling with the team for the next road trip — Alan Hahn taking his place as on-air analyst in games that Walt Frazier doesn’t travel to.

Before the game, Woj did a podcast with Haliburton wherein Haliburton said the remarks did inspire him to have great games right after that — with his teammates coming to his side.

With all that as the backdrop, some fans expected Halliburton to have a big revenge night in this game. But it didn’t happen.

Brunson Played Like an All Star

Brunson starred from the start — outplaying Haliburton — and leading NY to a huge 25-pt 2nd quarter lead. Brunson is an orchestrator, leader, shot maker; Haliburton is quick and fast and can hit the 3, but is still working on his orchestration game.

NY was up by 21 at the half and Haliburton was mostly invisible. Walt Frazier picked up on it as the 2nd half began, mentioning that Halliburton was having a bad night and had a -19. “When you’re best player is playing that poorly, that’s why they’re in the hole they’re in.”

As the 2nd half began, Haliburton began to attack more — and helped Indiana pull back to within 15 points — but went out with an injury with 2:32 left in the 3rd after Isaiah Hartenstein blocked his shot, causing Haliburton to fall to the floor and lose his shoe. Haliburton limped off the court with an apparent mild ankle sprain, holding his sneaker in one hand, and never returned.

Brunson finished with 34 points on 11-20 shooting (3-4 from 3, 9-9 in free throws), 4 assists and a +7, leading NY to the big lead at the half, and taking control of the game at the end as well, in leading NY to the win. Haliburton finished with 15 points, 7 assists and a -15.

2. Barrett Back in a Big Way

RJ Barrett was back after a 6-game absence due to a lacerated finger — and he was back in a big way, showing no rust. He hit 5 of his first 9 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3 and some strong drives, for 13 early points giving NY a 47-30 lead.

Barrett showed rust late in the game, missing two 3’s in the closing minutes, making a bad pass with 1:57 left for an Indiana score, and screwing up on a defensive play, where he fouled Buddy Hield on a 3 with 1:22 left — a 4-pt play that pulled Indiana to within 3. But Barrett made up for it with a terrific drive and pass to Brunson for a huge 3 with 2:20 left, and made two big free throws with 18 seconds left to make it 117-111 NY, and ice the win. Barrett finished with 27 points on 9-23 shooting, 8 rebounds, and 4 assists.

3. Indiana Comeback

Indiana started their comeback in the 3rd quarter — as they changed their team to go small, brought in TJ McConnell, who pressured Brunson, and had Buddy Hield go off.

The comeback got real when the Knick reserves were in at the end of the 3rd.

Thibodeau brought it into perspective:

“If you watch the variance with teams that shoot volume 3’s, there’s a big variance every game. There’s swings. You have to take a look at how the swings occurred; what caused them. Like, Some of those shots that Hield made were defended really well. And you have to respond to those.”

Thibs continued: “I thought our defense was good in 1st half; 2nd half not as good. But we knew that going in. We know their style of play. We know McConnell is a very good player; he’s going to keep the pace going; Hield can get going and he did. They went super small with Matherin at the 4 in the second half, so the speed of the game changed. The first half we saw some zone; we handled that part good. The second half there was full court pressure; there was blitz of the pick and roll; there was a lot of different things going on in the game, and we have to respond to that.”

4. Knicks Hold On Down Stretch

The Knicks were able to hold on down the stretch with Brunson’s clutch offensive drives and a big 3 (aided by an RJ Barrett drive and kick), and defense — which included a HUGE block by Julius Randle of a Bennedict Mathurin drive with 2:33 left, and offensive rebounding and defense by Mitchell Robinson. Randle had 16 rebounds; Robinson had 10 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals, and 2 blocks.

Knick 4th quarter offense also included big buckets by Quentin Grimes (18 points on 6-11 shooting, 4-8 from 3) and Immanuel Quickley (11 pts on 3-9 shooting).

“If you have a big lead they have to do something to create turnovers and get into the open floor,” said Thibodeau. “They did the same thing in Indiana and we handled the blitz great there. We’re also working 2 guys back into the rotation so it’s going to be a little choppy, we knew that going in. The rhythm will come. We scored 119 points, so I’m not worried about us scoring. But I am concerned about is our defense, and not letting up.”

Thibs continued, “A 20 point lead is not safe in this league. It happens every night. You have to fight human nature; you can’t exhale. You have to keep your foot on people. And for the most part we’ve done that. I think we’re #1 in the league in defending the 3. If I’m not mistaken. I think we’re 3 or 2 in defensive field goal percentage.”

The Boxscore


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