Scorching-hot Pacers set playoff mark in Game 7 rout of Knicks - ESPN

25 days ago

Brian Windhorst, ESPN Senior WriterMay 19, 2024, 06:19 PM ET

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ESPN.com NBA writer since 2010 Covered Cleveland Cavs for seven years Author of two books

NEW YORK -- There was huge anticipation for Sunday to produce a historic Madison Square Garden game. It absolutely did, just not one anyone could've expected.

Knicks vs Pacers - Figure 1
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Improbably and unexpectedly in a road Game 7 situation, the Indiana Pacers had one of the greatest shooting halves in the 77-year history of the NBA. When the stunned New York Knicks tried to recover with a second-half push, the Pacers superstar and their super sub stepped in and delivered the final blows.

The result was a 130-109 Pacers victory, eliminating the Knicks by finishing off four victories in five games after falling behind 2-0 in the series. The Pacers will now head to Boston to open the Eastern Conference finals against the Celtics on Tuesday.

The Pacers ended up shooting 67.1% overall, the highest field goal percentage for a playoff game in NBA history. And that was after they cooled off in the second half.

Adding to the misery for the Knicks, but sadly befitting what befell them in the series, star guard Jalen Brunson suffered a broken left hand during the third quarter. When his father, Knicks assistant coach Rick Brunson, returned to the bench after getting the news in the locker room, he could only hold his head in his hands.

It was already a tough day for Brunson, who was just 6-of-17 shooting for 17 points before exiting.

Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton, who had played two tepid and unimpactful games in New York previously in the series, drilled four 3-pointers in Sunday's first quarter alone, injecting momentum into his team and inspiring unending confidence.

After each 3, Haliburton barked at anyone within his eyeline, be it fans, Knicks players (particularly Donte DiVincenzo) and even into the ether. With each make, the Pacers looked more relaxed, and more importantly, it allowed them to set up their press that had bothered the Knicks throughout the series.

Haliburton finished with 27 points on 10-of-17 shooting.

The atmosphere was explosive in the first Game 7 in the Garden since 1995. It amped up when Knicks forward OG Anunoby emerged from the locker room tunnel for pregame warmups, as he returned earlier than expected from a right hamstring injury. But it became immediately clear it was a questionable decision to allow him to play.

Anunoby could barely run, and the Pacers couldn't help but notice. They immediately attacked him, going to Pascal Siakam for an easy basket on the opening possession and scoring four hoops on Anunoby in a matter of minutes. Anunoby made two jumpers as Knicks fans started to scream about a Willis Reed moment, but the Knicks simply couldn't let him stay on the court.

Anunoby was out after less than five minutes, and the Pacers had shed any nerves. Their offense flowed with players stepping into jumpers with ease and making shots from everywhere at every angle. Siakam scored 15 of his 20 points in the first half, Haliburton put up 16 and Myles Turner tallied 10 of his 17. The Pacers shot an incredible 76.3% in the opening 24 minutes (29-of-38) and 75% from 3-point range (8-of-12). They made 20 of 25 jumpers. They missed as many shots in the paint as beyond the arc.

It was the greatest shooting half in a playoff game on record, beating the 74% the San Antonio Spurs shot during the 2014 NBA Finals in a performance that left some thinking that was one of the finest displays of offensive basketball ever. And the Pacers beat it.

The Knicks made a push in the third quarter, thanks largely to a series of 3-pointers from DiVincenzo (37 points). He ended up with nine treys for the game, setting a Knicks playoff record. Those 3s and some rare defensive stops cut the Pacers' lead from 22 points down to seven and had the Knicks fans thinking they might see something to remember after all.

That's when Indiana coach Rick Carlisle sent in valuable reserve guard T.J. McConnell, who instantly settled the Pacers down and began making plays. McConnell helped force three Knicks turnovers, had two assists and put in two baskets. He was the catalyst in a 15-4 run that reestablished the Pacers' control of the game.

Alec Burks scored 26 points off the bench for the Knicks. Josh Hart, who played through an abdominal strain, received a standing ovation after fouling out in the fourth quarter with 10 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.

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