The End. Brunson Breaks Hand. Knicks Eliminated. Indiana 130 NY 109

Indiana came out RED HOT from 3 and jumped out to a 20-point lead in the 1st half. The Knicks came roaring back in the 3rd to pull within 7 points and looked like they would take command.

But Indiana pushed the lead back to 10, and Jalen Brunson broke his hand slapping at the ball trying to steal it from Tyrese Halliburton on the break with 5:37 left in the 3rd — instead hitting Halliburton’s leg and breaking his hand.

Brunson went out with 4 minutes left in the 3rd and NY down 14 — never to return.

It was the final straw for NY — the straw that broke the camel’s injured back. Final score Indiana 130 NY 109 in the 7th game at Madison Square Garden on a Sunday afternoon. Indiana advances; the Knicks are eliminated.

Josh Hart played but wasn’t himself. OG Anunoby played the first 5 minutes of the game and hit his first two 3’s — but was pulled because Thibs saw he wasn’t moving well — and never came back.

Donte DiVincenzo and Alec Burks carried the Knicks offensively but it wasn’t enough against the torrid shooting Pacers, led by Tyrese Halliburton who was UNCONSCIOUS from 3, and T.J. McConnell who had a legendary game at the point guard position — disrupting the Knicks every way possible.

“We started slow,” said coach Tom Thibodeau afterwards. “They’re a good offensive team. We made a run. At the end of the 2nd we played pretty good; we got some activity going. Then we made a run in the 3rd. Then we fell short. Guys gave everything they had, and that’s all you can ask. It was a battle all year, and there was nothing left to give at the end.”

“You hate to see all the injuries,” added Thibs. “Josh and OG tried to give us everything they had,”  “That says a lot about them. And then it was hit after hit; that’s part of it. Guys responded all year long. I’m disappointed in the sense that we won’t be able to play anymore. But I thought they were a great group to be around, and they gave everything they had.”

1. OG Started — Hit 1st Two 3’s

With Josh Hart injuring his ab muscle in the prior game — it looked like the Knicks would be coming out running on fumes. But there was HOPE to start as OG Anunoby was on the floor in the starting lineup!

And OG HIT his first two 3 attempts from the corner for the first 6 Knick points — the later one making it a 7-6 game a minute and a half in.

But Anunoby was clearly not himself on defense — and Thibs pulled him 5 minutes in; Anunoby would never return.

2. Halliburton UNCONSCIOUS from 3

It was a close game until late in the 1st quarter, when Indiana became UNCONSCIOUS from 3 — with Tyrese Halliburton hitting 4-straight flatfooted 3’s from the airport.

3. McConnell the DISRUPTOR

T.J. McConnell joined the fray and had a point-guard game for the ages — disrupting the Knicks on offense and defense.

On defense he continued to get away with physical play against Jalen Brunson, picking him up in the backcourt, and hounding him and often banging into him several times as he covered him the length of the court.

NY set picks to pull McConnell off Brunson.

On the offensive end, McConnell penetrated and scored, or dished, or hit floaters. He was the main reason why Indiana won the game and the series. He finished this game with 12 points on 6-8 shooting in 24 minutes, with 7 assists, a block, a steal, and a +21.

“Players study T.J. McConnell,” advised NBA Analyst Ross Kreines. “What got him on a roster years ago by playing with effort, activity, a purpose, gets into you defensively, make others better hasn’t changed except for a bigger role and a big factor. Also, an extension of a coach and leader. Earned everything nothing given.”

4. Indiana Up by 22 in 2nd Quarter

Myles Turner and Pascal Siakam were also a load to deal with for the Knicks, who were limited in size with Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and OG Anunoby all out — and with Josh Hart not quite himself.

Siakam was getting free for jumpers in the paint and hitting every one over the smaller Josh Hart. Turner was scoring inside and hitting 3’s. Isaiah Jackson was causing problems also; McConnell was the engine driving the Pacer offense, and Indiana went up by 22 points midway through the 2nd quarter.

Isaiah Hartenstein was also banged up — he occasionally clutched at his midsection. He would finish with a subpar 0 points and 8 rebounds in 32 minutes.

Alec Burks rose to the occasion for the Knicks — taking it to the rim, scoring or getting fouled, hitting nothing-but-net 3’s. Burks led the Knicks back to within 15 at the half.

5. Knicks STORM Back to Within 7 in 3rd

Then at the start of the 3rd, the Knicks took control. They intensified their defense. Brunson started to hit 3’s and drives; Miles McBride added to the scoring, DiVo hit a 3, and NY pulled to within 7 points — 73-67 — on a Josh Hart jumper with 8:06 left in the 3rd.

Indiana made consecutive shots while the Knicks missed 3’s — to put the Pacers back up 10 — but Donte DiVincenzo hit a big 3 and NY was down 7 again at 77-70 with 6:43 left. Myles Turner turned the ball over. NY ball. The Garden was ELECTRIC.

The Knicks were going to do it. They looked like the better team. They were taking control.

And then … not.

T.J. McConnell re-entered the game.

McBride made a bad pass for a turnover — Myles Turner hit a 3. Indiana by 10.

6. Brunson Breaks Hand

Brunson turned the ball over — Haliburton raced ahead of the field for a layup — Brunson tried to swat at the ball to steal it and hit Haliburton’s leg instead — breaking his hand.

Indiana 83 NY 70.

A minute later Brunson would leave the court. Knick fans wondered where Brunson was as the minutes ticked away in the 3rd and Indiana started building back their lead. Word came across Twitter that Brunson went to the lockeroom and his father Rick Brunson went there too.

The ESPN National TV announcers — Mike Breen, Doris Burke, and JJ Reddick — didn’t mention anything of it, as all of Knicks Twitter and local media wondered what happened to Brunson. Finally word came a few minutes into the 4th that Brunson had broken his hand and was gone. Soon afterwards, the ESPN National announcers caught wind of it and announced it.

7. Burks & DiVo Tried Valiantly to No Avail

NY was down 17 heading into the 4th. Even without Brunson — NY fought hard to come back. Donte DiVincenzo started lighting up 3’s, and Alec Burks joined him in frantically trying to bring NY back in it.

NY pulled to within 13 with 6:28 left on a Burks jumper. But NY just didn’t have the firepower, or the length to defend inside.

For Indiana, Andrew Nembhard figuratively couldn’t miss — scoring 20 points on 8-10 shooting. Aaron Nesmith literally couldn’t miss — he had 19 points on 8-8 shooting.

DiVincenzo finished with 39 pts on 11-21 shooting (9-15 from 3). Burks had 26 pts on 8-13 shooting (2-5 from 3). Brunson had 17 pts on 5-17 shooting.

Precious Achiuwa had 4 pts (on 2-7 shooting) but 0 rebounds in 28 minutes. McBride had 8 points on 4-14 shooting (0-6 from 3).

The Boxscore

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