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Knicks-Pacers: 5 takeaways as Jalen Brunson carries Knicks to 3-2 lead



Jalen Brunson reverse layup

Jalen Brunson data his fifth 40-point sport this postseason with 44 factors in Recreation 5 in opposition to Indiana.

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NEW YORK — The New York Knicks are one win from their first journey to the Japanese Convention Finals in 24 years.

Two days after their worst effort of the playoffs, the Knicks had their finest, a 121-91 victory in opposition to the Indiana Pacers in Recreation 5 of the Japanese Convention semifinals on Tuesday. It was the primary of their seven playoff wins that wasn’t inside three factors within the final 5 minutes.

Jalen Brunson had his legs, Isaiah Hartenstein grabbed almost each rebound and the Knicks’ protection was as sharp because it’s been within the postseason.

Listed here are some notes, quotes, numbers and movie because the Knicks handed the Pacers their second-worst margin of defeat this season.

1. Jalen Brunson is simply high quality

After the Knicks bought clobbered in Recreation 4 on Sunday, Brunson mentioned he was “high quality.” But it surely was exhausting to imagine him provided that he had suffered a foot harm in Recreation 2 and shot 16-for-43 (37%) over the 2 video games in Indiana.

Plainly we must always have taken him at his phrase.

Brunson led the best way with 44 factors on 18-for-35 taking pictures in Recreation 5, his fifth sport with no less than 40 factors in these playoffs, one other celebrity efficiency in entrance of an adoring crowd at Madison Sq. Backyard.

His jumper was falling, however Brunson was on the assault all night time, with 32 of the 44 factors coming within the paint (the place he shot 13-for-22) or on the free-throw line (6-for-7). The 26 factors within the paint have been tied for the second most in his profession, topped solely by his 30 factors within the paint when he scored 61 complete in opposition to San Antonio in late March.

The Knicks ran some actions (see beneath) to assist him get downhill. And Brunson was clearly feeling a lot better than he did in Recreation 4 on Sunday.

Requested what was completely different, Brunson mentioned, “I don’t know. Perhaps due to the house crowd. They have been phenomenal and I simply needed to regroup, needed to modify.”

He didn’t simply have extra elevate on his photographs. He additionally appeared a lot faster.

Early within the fourth quarter, Brunson was inbounding the ball on the aspect of the ground together with his defender (Ben Sheppard) shading towards the highest. And as he handed the ball to Isaiah Hartenstein, Brunson took off towards the basket, beating Sheppard to the block, taking contact and spinning in a exceptional reverse layup as he hit the ground:

“M-V-P” chants adopted the layup. The remainder of the Knicks adopted their chief.

“I simply love there’s by no means any excuse-making from him,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau mentioned of Brunson. “You by no means get that from him. It’s all the time, ‘I’ll be higher subsequent sport.’”

2. Pacers can’t deal with double-drag motion

The Knicks have been focusing on Tyrese Haliburton all collection, usually setting screens for Brunson with the man whom Haliburton is guarding.

Haliburton doesn’t need to change these screens. He’s been hedging (leaping out excessive) in opposition to them to carry Brunson up whereas the preliminary defender recovers. Over the past two video games, Aaron Nesmith had performed a terrific job of working across the display screen and getting again in entrance of Brunson earlier than he might achieve a lot of a bonus.

On Tuesday, Haliburton was guarding Miles McBride, who began for the Knicks as an alternative of Treasured Achiuwa. As an alternative of getting McBride set single screens, the Knicks usually went to “double-drag” screens, the place Brunson dribbles off two screens, the primary from McBride and the second from the middle.

Haliburton nonetheless had no want to modify. Myles Turner (guarding the large) wished to retreat into the paint. Brunson’s defender now had two screens to navigate as an alternative of only one.

With the Pacers up six halfway by way of the primary quarter, T.J. McConnell was guarding Brunson. McBride and Hartenstein set two screens for Brunson, coming from the precise aspect of the ground. Haliburton whiffed together with his hedge and Turner stayed connected to Hartenstein.

McConnell appeared like he was initially anticipating a change from Haliburton, and by the point he was in a position to scramble again to the ball, Brunson was already heading downhill towards the basket:

Jalen Brunson layup

A little bit later within the first, the Knicks ran the identical motion from the opposite aspect of the ground. This time, Turner hedged out on the second display screen, however he by no means lower Brunson off from one other drive to the ring:

Jalen Brunson layup

3. The Knicks’ protection comes again

By Monday, the Knicks’ protection ranked fifteenth within the playoffs, with solely the Phoenix Suns (who have been swept within the first spherical) having allowed extra factors per 100 possessions. New York’s protection wasn’t nice initially of Recreation 5, with Indiana scoring 22 factors on its first 12 journeys down the ground.

However Obi Toppin ended a streak of 5 straight scores by taking a foul shot with loads of time left on the shot clock. Then, the Knicks seemingly discovered their legs on protection.

They stayed with the Pacers’ ball and participant motion. They helped when assist was wanted. They rotated from there and didn’t cease till they bought the cease.

One defensive possession late within the second quarter had all of it.

Andrew Nembhard introduced the ball up the ground, faked a handoff to Toppin and seemingly had a step on Donte DiVincenzo as he drove to the ring. However Achiuwa was there with assist. The Pacers saved the ball and our bodies shifting, however the Knicks stayed with them. Nembhard circled round, took a handoff and seemingly had DiVincenzo beat once more. However Brunson was there, able to take a cost:

Great Knicks defense

Nembhard kicked the ball out to Turner and Achiuwa was there with a managed close-out. Turner bought the ball again to Nembhard, who rejected Turner’s display screen and drove as soon as once more. However Achiuwa switched off Turner, stayed with Nembhard as he crossed over and drove into the paint, and swatted his layup try:

Precious Achiuwa block on Andrew Nembhard

That’s actually good offense and great protection. There have been extra possessions like that:

Great Knicks defense

Regardless of scoring these 22 factors on their first 12 possessions, the Pacers completed with simply 91 on 92. It was simply the third time this season (93 complete video games) that they’d been held beneath some extent per possession. And it was, simply, the Knicks’ finest defensive sport of the playoffs.

“It was a fantastic defensive effort at present,” Thibodeau mentioned. “We bought to do it yet again [in Game 6]. It received’t carry over except we put the work into the following sport.”

4. Knicks play small, dominate the glass

McBride had began the second half of Recreation 4 rather than Achiuwa. Earlier than Recreation 5, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was requested concerning the two lineups the Knicks might go to.

“Their smaller lineup is gonna be quicker and extra perimeter expert,” he mentioned. “That’s going to be exhausting to protect, for positive. Once they’re massive, you must take care of them extra on the boards. That’s exhausting to protect too.”

Alas, the Knicks performed the small lineup (Achiuwa and Hartenstein performed simply 6.7 minutes collectively) and have been exhausting to take care of on the boards. Hartenstein had seven offensive rebounds lower than three minutes into the second quarter, ending with 12, probably the most for any participant in a playoff sport within the final two years.

The Knicks’ offensive rebounding proportion of fifty% was neither their highest mark of those playoffs nor the best mark in opposition to the Pacers this season. However that’s an enormous quantity and all these offensive boards was 27 second-chance factors.

“Isaiah was phenomenal,” Thibodeau mentioned. “These additional possessions have been enormous for us.”

Brunson cooled off a bit within the fourth quarter, however Hartenstein was nonetheless doing his factor, grabbing 4 offensive boards and drawing two loose-ball fouls on rebounds over a stretch of seven possessions when the Knicks have been already up 20. He took simply three photographs, however dominated the sport nearly as a lot as Brunson did.

5. An additional day without work coming

Earlier than this spherical, winners of Recreation 5 in a 2-2, best-of-seven collection have gone on to win the collection 82% of the time. Groups that received Recreation 5 closed it out in Recreation 6 (118) extra usually than in Recreation 7 (72).

The Knicks (after blowing Recreation 5 within the ultimate seconds) closed out their first-round collection in Recreation 6 in Philadelphia, they usually actually can do the identical in Indiana on Friday (time TBD, ESPN).

Whereas they misplaced each video games at Gainbridge Fieldhouse this previous weekend, the primary one went all the way down to the wire, and the second got here after a brief turnaround. The Knicks are short-handed, banged up and enjoying heavy minutes, they usually positive appeared it in Recreation 4 on Sunday afternoon.

However they appeared refreshed in Recreation 5, when Brunson was the one Knick to play greater than 40 minutes. Alec Burks has emerged as a seventh rotation man who can spell the guards, and there are actually two days off between video games.

After all, in the event that they don’t win Recreation 6, the Knicks will face an analogous turnaround because the one between Video games 3 and 4, this time with journey. Recreation 7 can be at 3:30 p.m. again in New York on Sunday.

So each groups ought to really feel some urgency on Friday night time. The Pacers’ season is on the road and the Knicks want all the remainder they will get.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for You possibly can e-mail him right here, discover his archive right here and follow him on X. 

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