May 21st, 2024

Jalen Brunson returns from foot injury, sparks Knicks past Pacers for 2-0 lead in East semifinals

By Brian Mahoney, The Associated Press on May 8, 2024.

Indiana Pacers' Andrew Nembhard (2) defends against New York Knicks' Jalen Brunson (11) during the first half of Game 2 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series Wednesday, May 8, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

NEW YORK (AP) – Jalen Brunson returned from a right foot injury to score 24 of his 29 points in the second half, leading the New York Knicks to a 130-121 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night for a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

On the anniversary of Willis Reed’s dramatic emergence from the locker room before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals to lead the Knicks to their first title, Brunson sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy when he came out to warm up at halftime after missing the entire second quarter while the Pacers surged ahead to a double-figure lead.

He fell short of becoming the second player in NBA history to score 40 or more points in five straight playoff games, but he gave the Knicks everything they needed to move halfway to their first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 2000.

OG Anunoby added a career playoff-high 28 points before leaving with a left hamstring injury in the third quarter for the injury-riddled Knicks, who have already lost three key players to season-ending injuries.

But they got Brunson back and received huge efforts again from his two Villanova teammates. Donte DiVincenzo scored 28 points and Josh Hart had 19 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists for the No. 2-seeded Knicks.

Tyrese Haliburton rebounded from a poor Game 1 with 34 points, nine assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, who finished the game without coach Rick Carlisle after he got two technical fouls and was ejected.

The series moves to Indiana for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.

Former Knicks forward Obi Toppin added 20 points in another strong effort by Indiana’s reserves, but the Pacers hurt themselves by shooting just 10 for 17 (59%) from the free throw line.

Knicks fans jeered Pacers Hall of Famer Reggie Miller, an enemy from the heated 1990s era of this playoff rivalry who was calling the game as part of TNT’s crew, during a delirious finish to what had been a nervous first half, when Brunson was missing for the entire second quarter.

He had made a 3-pointer for a 24-13 lead in the first quarter, but after Toppin made one for the Pacers on the other end, Brunson began waving to the bench for a substitution as he ran down the court on offense. That was early in an 11-0 run by Indiana to tie it, and it was tied again at 36 after Toppin made three free throws with 0.3 seconds remaining.

The Pacers then made 15 of 22 shots in the second quarter in Brunson’s absence, outscoring the Knicks 37-27 to take a 73-63 lead.

Brunson emerged during the half to warm up, triggering a huge roar from the fans who weren’t in concession lines or restrooms, followed by “MVP! MVP!” chants. Indiana’s lead was 79-70 before the Knicks stormed ahead with a 14-0 run, with Brunson contributing a three-point play during it as New York went ahead 84-79.

Anunoby was hurt soon after, appearing to injure his hamstring while trying to finish a fast-break layup, but Brunson guided the Knicks through the finish with 14 points in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks paid tribute Reed’s return, one of the most memorable moments in NBA and Madison Square Garden, during the first quarter. His No. 19 jersey, hanging in the rafters, was spotlighted, and Hall of Fame teammate Walt Frazier came onto the court for an ovation.



Share this story:

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x