All Star Jalen Brunson & Knicks REBOUNDING Beat Pacers. NY 109 Indiana 105

Jalen Brunson — named to the All Star team minutes before game time — put on a SHOW to carry NY to a heart-attack win over the Pacers on a Thursday night at Madison Square Garden, 109-105.

Indiana double-teamed Brunson all night, and played him physically, but he busted through the double teams to find the open man or score himself on drives and 3’s.

With 2 minutes left, Indiana started their double-team baseline-to-baseline, and Andrew Nembhard accidentally smashed Brunson in the eye — Jalen Smith stole the ball from the fallen Brunson and scored a layup to put Indiana ahead 100-99. No call by the ref which had MSG and Knick fans at home howling.

After a timeout, in the play of the game, Brunson came down the other end — his left eye still red and partially closed from the hit — and took it right to Indiana for an and-1 in traffic to give NY back the lead, 101-100. Brunson missed the free throw but Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed the offensive rebound, and fed Donte DiVincenzo for a jumper in the lane. A Precious Achiuwa offensive rebound tip-in next time down gave NY the lead they wouldn’t relinquish, at a thunderous Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks OWNED the boards in the 2nd half, outrebounding Indiana 60-44 overall with most of that delta coming in the last 2 quarters. NY had 20 offensive rebounds to Indiana’s 9 — which gave the Knicks constant 2nd-chance opportunities as they willed their way to the win. Isaiah Hartenstein had 19 rebounds (8 offensive). Precious Achiuwa had 16 rebounds (8 offensive). Josh Hart had 12 rebounds. Jericho Sims played a big-man game with 3 blocks and 4 rebounds in 13 minutes.

Julius Randle — out with the shoulder injury — was also named to the All Star game with Brunson. NY was also without OG Anunoby, Quentin Grimes, and of course Mitchell Robinson. Malachi Flynn got early minutes due to the QGrimes injury.

Thibs Thoughts

“I thought the start was decent,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “The thing that probably hurt us more than anything was the rebounding early on; we were giving up 2nd shots. The initial part was good but we weren’t finishing our defense the way we needed to. Once we fixed that the game got within reach, and then we just kept battling.”

“I thought our bench really played well in the 1st half ,” added Thibs, “with Malachi, Jericho and when Josh is with that group — Josh played a great game — 0-6 but phenomenal defense, rebounding, hustle, he had a huge blocked shot at the end of the game. Precious what he gave us. And I thought Deuce gave us really good minutes as well. Donte gave us some timely shots; he just kept firing that’s what he does; that’s what we want him to do. Jalen was just, Jalen. And then when you factor in Isaiah. It was just a good team win; found a way to win in the end. The defense was good; the rebounding was good; the 2nd shots were critical for us. It was just a hard-fought win.”

NY has won 9 in a row and is now 32-17, a half-game behind Milwaukee, with Cleveland hot on their tails a half game back, having won again. If NY jumps ahead of Milwaukee and stays ahead of Cleveland in the next two weeks then Tom Thibodeau will have to coach the All Star Game, as Boston’s Joe Mazzulla coached it last year. Indiana falls to 27-22.

1. Haliburton Loses Game for Indiana in 1st Quarter with Animal Scream

Tyrese Haliburton — also named to the All Star game — was just back from injury — as players always are when it comes to having an opportunity to play at Madison Square Garden.

And of course there is a history with Haliburton and the Knicks — with Brunson outplaying Haliburton in a game last year and Knick announcer Wally Sczerbiak infamously saying afterwards that Brunson played like an All Star and Haliburton played like a ‘wanna-be All Star’. That pissed off Haliburton and the Pacers, and the league might have taken offense too as Haliburton was named an All Star last year, and Brunson was incredibly left off the team. MSG disciplined Wally, not allowing him broadcast the next road trip with the team.

Earlier this season, Haliburton faced the Knicks for the first time since that incident and helped beat NY while giving Wally smack.

With that as the back story — here was Haliburton driving for a dunk 6 minutes into the game to give Indiana a 22-15 lead and letting out an animal SCREAM directed to everyone at MSG but happened to be right in defender Donte DiVincenzo‘s face as DiVincenzo was preparing to inbound the ball.

Donte reflexively pushed Haliburton back and was called for a Technical.

After that all Karma lay with the Knicks. You just knew they were going to find a way to win.

2. Knicks Miss 3’s But Buckle Down on D

But Indiana kept making shots and the Knicks kept missing 3’s. Obi Toppin was doing his thing — scoring inside on breaks and hitting any wide-open 3’s he got and Indiana took a 36-26 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.

NY continued to miss 3’s — Donte DiVincenzo finally hit some important 3’s in the 2nd half but finished 4-16 from 3; the rest of the starting 5 were worse: Brunson (1-6), Hart (0-3) and Achiuwa (0-3) were 1-12 from 3.

When Obi Toppin hit an open 3 with 10 minutes left in the 2nd quarter, Indiana had a 15-point lead.

But the Knicks buckled down on Defense in the later part of the 2nd quarter, and prohibited Indiana from getting to 60 points. On offense Precious Achiuwa was doing damage inside, and Jalen Brunson kept making drives and pullups to pull NY to within 7 at the half, 58-51.

3. Knicks Start Owning the Boards in 2nd Half

Indiana had multiple 2nd chance opportunities in the 1st half, off offensive rebounds — and the Knicks fixed their rebounding at halftime. They came out of the gate and got seemingly every rebound. Hartenstein, Achiuwa, and Hart crashing the boards.

“Isaiah Hartenstein doesn’t need plays called for him or a 40+ vertical to impact the game,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “He uses his lower body/positioning along with outworking you and wanting it more on the glass, sets good screens, good passing Big, defends, gets 50/50 balls and is always engaged. Winning player.”

Indiana Wouldn’t Quit

Indiana kept NY at bay on several scores early in the 3rd by Haliburton, scoring by Aaron Nesmith (17 pts), and then a 3 by Myles Turner here and a 3 by Buddy Hield there, and a tremendous performance by Jalen Smith — who kept snipping NY with 3’s from the top of the key or buckets inside. Smith had 20 points on 9-11 shooting (2-3 from 3).

McBride Gives NY a Boost

But NY kept digging and got a huge lift from Miles McBride late in the 3rd quarter. McBride was the only Knick hitting the 3 ball and then also made tremendous drive after drive to the rim.

McBride scored 8 straight Knick points to end the 3rd quarter — a 3, a drive-and-1, and another drive with 14 seconds left to pull NY to within 3 at 82-79.

A Pascal Siakam drive put Indiana up by 5 heading into the 4th.


McBride continued his assault with a 3 early in the 4th to pull NY to within 87-82, and then FINALLY DiVincenzo hit a 3 and NY was down by 2.

The Knick defense Intensified; Josh Hart was Everywhere, blocking an Obi Toppin drive, grabbing offensive rebounds.

  • Andrew Nembhard hit back-to-back pullups but McBride countered with another 3. then Brunson hit a 2 and it was a tie game with 6:45 left.
  • A Brunson floater gave the Knicks the lead.
  • A Brunson pullup gave NY a 4-pt lead at 95-91 with 5 minutes left.
  • An Isaiah Hartenstein dunk off an offensive rebound gave NY a 97-91 lead.
  • But Indiana rallied back — a Jalen Smith 3 and a Jalen Smith short jumper pulled the Pacers back within 2.
  • A Pascal Siakam J pulled Indiana to within 1 at 99-98 NY.

And then the play of the game — with Nembhard smashing Brunson in the eye, Smith stealing the ball from the fallen Brunson for a layup and Indiana 100-99 lead and No call from the ref.

And then the timeout, and Brunson with the red eye taking it to Indiana for the lead on an and-1.

Brunson missed the free throw but Hartenstin grabbed the rebound, missed a tip shot, grabbed the offensive rebound again, and fed DiVincenzo for an 18 footer. Bang.

  • Precious Achiuwa blocked Pascal Siakam’s inside shot down the other end, then DiVincenzo missed a 3 but Precious tipped in an offensive rebound. NY 105 Indiana 100 with a minute left.

  • Indiana inbounded the ball but Precious stole the inbounds.

In the final minute, NY defense pressured Indiana into misses — both Andrew Nembhard and Buddy Hield missing driving layups and that was ballgame. After that it was free throws as Indiana was forced to intentionally foul and Brunson and then Hart hit them all.

“Good things happen when you out-rebound, outwork all, play physical, defend and every player that steps on the floor knows their role and leaves nothing in the tank,” summed up NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “Along with letting Brunson run your show. The Knicks are doing this and playing hard through every possession.”

The Boxscore


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