Jalen Brunson, Knicks dominate Pacers with emphatic Game 5 victory | Takeaways

NEW YORK – The Knicks are back in control.

One game after getting thoroughly outplayed on the road, they returned to Madison Square Garden Tuesday night and turned in a much more inspiring – and characteristic – performance to beat the Indiana Pacers, 121-91, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The Knicks took a 3-2 series lead with the win.

They’ll try to put the series away with a win in Game 6 Friday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

“That’s who they are,” coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We still need one more win. So we can’t be too excited about it. We have to understand what we need to do: Stay focused on the task at hand. Feeling good about yourself, you get knocked down in this league. You’ve got to be ready to go.”

Thibodeau’s team was again without OG Anunoby for a third straight game as he deals with a hamstring injury he suffered in Game 2, but Jalen Brunson looked much more like his usual self with his latest sterling postseason performance.

The Knicks crushed the Pacers on the boards, outrebounding them 53-29, including 20 on the offensive glass.

Isaiah Hartenstein finished with 17 boards on his own.

The Knicks finished with 26 second-chance points.

“It was just big time,” Brunson said. “They played really well back in Indiana and just put us on our heels. We needed to respond. Just doing what we do and sticking to our guys and core principals. Just doing what we do and sticking to our core principals. Just doing the things we do that help us be successful.”

The Knicks were coming off a terrible performance in Game 4, which ended with a 32-point Pacers victory that evened the series at two games apiece.

They had a much better start Tuesday night – despite falling into a seven-point deficit in the first period, they recovered and were up 38-32 by the end of the opening period.

The first half ended with the Knicks holding a commanding 15-point lead.

They reeled off a 17-0 run in the third quarter to take a 25-point lead.

The game wasn’t in doubt after that.

The Knicks played with more energy, they were hitting shots from early on and playing well on the defensive end.

They looked much more like, well, the Knicks, riding the energy of The Garden crowd.

Takeaways

Jalen Brunson returns to form

This was the biggest development of the night for the Knicks.

By far.

Already shorthanded, the Knicks can’t afford Brunson to be off, but that was the case the previous two games as he continued to deal with the foot injury he suffered in Game 2.

In both games in Indianapolis, Brunson didn’t have his same explosiveness or lift. Many, if not all, of his jumpshots were short.

Brunson wasn’t close to 100 percent, though he maintained he was fine.

Regardless, he looked much more like himself in Game 5.

Brunson finished with 44 points on 18-of-35 shooting, 2-of-6 from long distance, with four rebounds and seven assists.

He scored 28 points in 22 first-half minutes.

It was Brunson’s fifth 40-plus point game of the postseason, the second most in a single postseason in team history (Bernard King had six in 1984).

“Even going into tonight’s game, I think he was averaging 30 points against Indiana,” Thibodeau said. “Everyone, we’ve all come to expect him to be super-human every night. And he’s in incredible player. He’s loaded up on every night. He’s the focal point of everyone’s game plan. And sometimes it’s a case of missing shots, and they could be good shots. And so I think we all tend to forget that and the thing I love about his approach is he never gets crazy. He’s like a machine every day, he comes in locked in, this is what he’s going to do, he’ll be ready for the next game.”

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Lineup change

Thibodeau deployed a new-look starting five, inserting Miles McBride and going with a smaller lineup.

“Just in the second half of the last game — we had done it a number of times during the regular season, so we just thought that would give us our best chance,” Thibodeau said.

The move worked well. McBride was solid offensively, finishing with 17 points on 7-of-15 shooting, 3-of-7 from three-point range in 40 minutes. Twelve of his points came in the first half.

McBride later hit a big three-pointer in the opening minutes of the second half that put the Knicks back up by 13 after Indiana had cut into their double-digit deficit.

McBride also played extremely well on the defensive end.

“He was great,” Brunson said. “He was fantastic. He brought energy from the start. That is what he does.”

Knicks limited Tyrese Haliburton

Haliburton had a rough Game 1 and scored just six points, but averaged 29.7 points and shot 55.0 percent in the following three contests.

But the Knicks did a good job on Tuesday night of limiting the Pacers star guard and never allowing him to get into any kind of a rhythm.

McBride, especially, did a good job guarding him.

Haliburton finished with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in 34 minutes.

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