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Friday, June 21, 2024

Pacers thrash Knicks to level NBA playoff series

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Los Angeles, United States – Tyrese Haliburton scored 20 points and the Indiana Pacers dismantled the New York Knicks 121-89 on Sunday to level their NBA Eastern Conference semi-final series at two games apiece.

After the first three games of the best-of-seven series came down to the final minutes, Haliburton and the Pacers finally got their high-octane offense firing and fashioned a blow-out, a raft of injuries at last catching up with the Knicks.

The Pacers connected on 56.8% of their shots, drilling 14 three-pointers and dominating in the paint.

T.J. McConnell scored 15 points off the bench for Indiana, who had six players score in double figures.

After a dunk by Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein to open the game, the first quarter was all Pacers, Indiana pushing their lead to as many as 23 points.

Knicks talisman Jalen Brunson was 0-for-5 in the opening quarter and the Pacers bench out-scored the Knicks reserves 17-0 in the period.

The domination continued in the second quarter, Haliburton sending the crowd into a frenzy with a three-pointer over Donte DiVincenzo that put the Pacers up by 30 with 5.9 seconds left in the first half.

They would lead by as many as 43 before it was over, but despite the rapturous ovation from fans at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Haliburton said the Pacers must remain focused on the task ahead.

“We did our job,” Haliburton said. “They did their job and won two at home, we did our job and won two at home.

“We understand the magnitude of game five and we’ll be prepared for that one.”

The banged-up Knicks were again without OG Anunoby, who injured a hamstring in game two to join key contributors Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic on the sidelines.

The strain was telling on Brunson, who is playing through a right foot injury. Brunson connected on six of 17 attempts to score 18 points with three rebounds and five assists before checking out with two and a half minutes left in the third quarter.

With the contest out of hand and game five coming up at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, both coaches pulled their starters for the fourth quarter.

“Now we’ve got to go there and get a win in the Garden,” Haliburton said.

New York coach Tom Thibodeau wouldn’t point to injuries after the Knicks struggled with shooting and connected on just seven of 37 three-point attempts.

“Everyone’s got something — it’s the playoffs,” Thibodeau said, saying the key would be how the Knicks bounce back.

“Whether you lose by one or lose by 30, it’s a loss,” he said. “You’ve got to respond.”

Elsewhere, the defending champion Denver Nuggets were trying to even up their series against the Timberwolves in Minnesota.

The T’Wolves stunned Nikola Jokic and the Nuggets with two convincing wins in Denver to open the series.

But two days after Jokic scooped his third NBA Most Valuable Player award in four seasons the Nuggets picked apart the Timberwolves on their home floor to trim the series deficit to 2-1.

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