Injury-Depleted Knicks “Fall Short”. Indiana 125 NY 111

With their 5 best and biggest big men out, the Knicks only had the 6’8 Precious Achiuwa and Pray for Rain up front, and were too short to beat Indiana, losing on a Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, 125-111.

Indiana attacked the paint all night, which opened up the offense for them, making it easier for them from the outside.

Precious has brothers named God’sgift (played at St Johns), God’swill, and Promise (and sisters Grace and Peace) — both of his parents Pentecostal ministers from Nigeria (although Precious and the whole family grew up in the Bronx). If he had a brother named Pray for Rain the Knicks could’ve used him because their only other big was the 38-year-old, 6’9 Taj Gibson, who .. kind of played like he was 6’7 or recently retired on this evening. Not a good night for Taj who seemed overwhelmed and slow to react underneath.

Jalen Brunson was the best player on the court with a heroic 39 points on efficient 14-25 shooting. Newcomer Bojan Bogdanovic added firepower with 11 pts, and newcomer/oldcomer Alec Burks scored 22 points, mostly in the 4th quarter. But it wasn’t enough — the Knicks defense wasn’t intense.

At some point Julius Randle, Isaiah Hartenstein, OG Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson, and Jericho Sims will return, but until at least one of them does, this does not look like the Knick team we were watching two weeks ago.

“I thought for their first game, there were obviously some good things, but obviously there is a lot for them to adjust to,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards about the additions of Bogy and Burks. “As a team we have to do a lot better; we’re shorthanded so we’re going to have to play a lot harder and a lot tougher. And we’re going to have to count on our defense and our rebounding. It’s one of the only times we’ve been outrebounded all year, so we’re going to have to fix that and we’re going to have to fix it fast.”

“We have to gang rebound,” added Thibs. “We’re not going to be able to count on one or two guys.  We have to put our bodies on people and go fight for the ball. So we’re small… I’m disappointed in the loss but not disappointed in our team. We’ve fought all year and we’ve responded to every challenge. I think we’re capable of being a lot better and I think we will. What you’re counting on right now is your hustle. Your hustle can make up for mistakes. There’s going to be a period of adjustment there always is. We don’t have to be perfect but if we’re playing real hard you can make up for those things.”

NY loses its 2nd in a row and drops to 33-20. Indiana improves to 30-24.

1. Knicks Led After 1 Quarter

Even without their bigs, the Knicks were able to match up with Indiana in the 1st quarter. Donte DiVincenzo and Jalen Brunson led the NY scoring, and Precious Achiuwa played big inside — with a blocked shot, a drive, a steal, and a dunk.

They countered the heavy scoring of Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner who led Indiana’s early attack. Tyrese Haliburton was mostly orchestrating; he hit a 3 midway thru the period but DiVincenzo immediately countered with a 3 for NY.

After 1 quarter it was 27-26 NY on top.

2. Close at the Half

Haliburton is on a minutes restriction, and would play 30 minutes on the evening. He had his first taste of victory at the Garden in some time.

T.J. McConnell came in late in the 1st quarter and played thru the first half of the 2nd quarter and hurt the Knicks, as he always does.

Bogdanovic was scoring for NY — all of his 11 points came in the 1st half.

Obi Toppin broke away for an ahead-of-the-field slam dunk — but put the ball between his legs and missed the dunk — which had Julius Randle on the sidelines Howling with laughter at his buddy/former teammate — as well as Knick fam at the Garden and watching on tv/tweeting on X.

But Indiana started to utilize their size advantage in the 2nd quarter to take the lead. Josh Hart was grabbing rebounds — he had 10 — but NY had no height inside. Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam were operating underneath and Aaron Nesmith kept hitting 3’s on the outside. Nesmith hit three 3’s in the quarter and Indiana was up 61-58 at the half.

3. Indiana Pulled Ahead in the 3rd Quarter

Jalen Brunson led the Knicks charge in the 3rd quarter and the two teams traded blows early on, both teams trying to take control of the game.

Indiana edged further ahead as they kept attacking the paint and then hitting 3’s from the outside. In a play of the game, Haliburton used the backboard to help him with an assist — throwing the ball off the backboard — getting the rebound and dishing to the corner for a Pascal Siakam corner 3.

Miles McBride added some instant offense off the bench late in the quarter to pull NY to within 6 — but Haliburton closed the quarter with a 30-foot step-back at the buzzer that rolled around, out, and then in for a 3-pointer and 9-pt Indiana lead.

4. TJ McConnell Helps Indiana Pull Away in the 4th

And then it was more T.J. McConnell in the 4th quarter, killing the Knicks. He is quick and fast and a perpetual motion machine — constantly attacking the basket. Even Miles McBride had a tough time keeping up with him let alone staying in front of him.

“T.J. McConnell is a winning player,” noted NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “He always defends, makes others better, stays ready, knows his role and flat-out competes regardless if he’s playing 2 minutes or 20 minutes as his effort never changes. Also an extension of a coach on the floor who takes no play for granted.”

Despite his play, the Indiana Pacers failed to tweet a highlight video of any of his exploits on the evening — so we grabbed a photo. McConnell finished with 16 points on 8-10 shooting with 4 rebounds and 6 assists.

McConnell fed Obi Toppin who hit a 3 early in the quarter to put Indiana up by 12.

McConnell continued to attack the basket for scores and/or fed teammates like Isaiah Jackson for scores and soon Indiana was up by 22 points.

Knicks Didn’t Give Up

But the Knicks did not give up, as Thibs mentioned.

Jalen Brunson hit a 3-and-1 for a 4-point play with 4:40 left to pull NY back to within 18 and then Alec Burks hit a couple of 3’s in a row to pull NY back to within 14 with 2:23 left.

Burks free throws pulled NY to within 12 with 2:02 left, but NY ran out of time and “fell short”.

The Boxscore


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