The Knicks closed out an epic grind-it-out series against the 76ers and now move to round two, where they’ll face the Indiana Pacers.

In a frantic Game 6 against the Philadelphia 76ers, the New York Knicks were able to secure the series win with a final score of 118-115 in order to advance into the second round of the playoffs thanks to Josh Hart’s dazzling three-point dagger with just 24.4 seconds remaining.

The back-and-forth game felt like it could have gone either way but the Knicks prevailed behind the efforts of their beloved point guard Jalen Brunson, who became the seventh player overall in NBA history and the second Knick (besides Bernard King in 1984) to record 40+ points in three consecutive playoff games. He was locked and loaded in Game 6, burying 41 points, 12 assists, and ultimately, the city of Philadelphia.

With a thriller of a series in the rearview, the New York Knicks will be facing the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, the first game coming at MSG Arena on Monday night at 7:30 p.m. E.T. This is the first time that the Knicks have advanced into the second round of the playoffs in consecutive years since 1992-2000.

So, let’s take a look at what we should expect from this exciting matchup together, shall we?

A Battle of Defense vs. Offense

It is safe to say that this second-round duel should make for one entertaining series. We’ve got a matchup of two much-respected coaches known for their effective leadership in Tom Thibodeau and Rick Carlisle. There’s also the face-off between former Raptors OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam, who spent years playing next to each other, won a ring together, and will likely guard each other. These are two mid-season additions who have greatly impacted their respective teams and are clear game-changers.

The Pacers averaged 112.1 points per game in their round one series against the now-eliminated Milwaukee Bucks while allowing 110.6 points per game. However, it is important to note that the Pacers achieved this with the Bucks missing their engine Giannis Antetokounmpo for the entire series, and Damian Lillard for two games.

It’s crucial to point out that the Pacers have the second-best net rating in the league, but have heavily relied on their ball movement all year long. That being said, no player on their roster averaged more than 22 ppg. As a team, they ranked 2nd in the NBA for the most three-points made in the playoffs (14.0) and 11th in the regular season (13.2) while ranking first in the playoffs for made field goals (43.2) and again, first in the regular season (47.0). As for guarding threes, the Pacers were ranked seventh in the playoffs and first in the regular season.

The Pacers also averaged the most assists in the NBA in the regular season (30.8 per game) and were the highest-scoring team (123.3 points per game). They were extremely dependent on passing lanes, averaging 6.6 steals per game (4th in the league). In spite of all this, the Pacers were the third-worst rebounding team in the NBA (28th), a critical advantage for the Knicks.

Looking back, the Knicks and the Pacers went head-to-head three times during the regular season, the Pacers coming out on top with a record of 2-1. Both of those Knicks’ losses were unfortunately blowouts: 140-126 on December 30 and 125-111 on February 10. The one victory against the Pacers was as close one, as they eked out a 109-105 victory on February 1. Despite being outmatched in the regular season, a major missing puzzle piece was OG Anunoby (who was facing a serious right elbow injury at the time).

When looking at the Knicks, they averaged 108.3 points in round one of the playoffs while allowing 108.1 points from the Sixers, which shows just how close that series really was. In contrast with the Pacers who were ranked first in the regular season for field goals made, the Knicks were ranked fourth best defensively in FGA and second for FGA allowed. The Knicks have also allowed the second least points made in the NBA (108.2), which makes up for the Pacers who were leading the NBA in terms of scoring.

As I mentioned before, the Pacers struggled heavily when it came down to rebounding in the regular season. That is definitely not the case for your New York Knicks. The Knicks were ranked as fifth overall in the NBA for rebounding (45.2). More specifically, they led with the most offensive rebounds in the league (12.7) with the leading net rating of +4.5. They are also in first place for blocks in the playoffs (7.2 per game).

Battle of the Guards: Jalen Brunson vs. Tyrese Haliburton

While Jalen Brunson has been phenomenal since coming to New York, this first-round series was a true superstar coming-out party. He averaged 35.5 points, 9.0 assists, and 4.5 rebounds, shooting 42.9% from the field and 30.4% from three in round one. Despite struggling in Games 1 and 2, Brunson has made it his sole job to carry the Knicks to the second round, a goal in which he was ultimately successful.

Meanwhile, Tyrese Haliburton averaged 16.0 points, 9.3 assists, and 5.8 rebounds, shooting 43.5% from the field and 29.6% from three. Although he didn’t average as many points as JB in the first round, Haliburton still sets the tone for how the Pacers want to play. He is unselfish and is always on the lookout to facilitate for the open man, using the threat of his shot to open up looks for his teammates to capitalize on.

Battle of the Bigs: Isaiah Hartenstein and Mitchell Robinson vs. Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner

Knicks’ starting center Isaiah Hartenstein averaged 6.5 rebounds, 10.3 points, and 2.7 assists in round one. A major takeaway from iHart’s performance in round one was not just his defensive abilities, but his ability to muscle his way into the paint for critical points whenever the Knicks’ offense started to slog down.

Meanwhile, Mitchell Robinson provided a different, but similarly effective look, averaging 7.8 rebounds, 3.0 points, and 0.4 assists in round one. Over the course of six games, he recorded 39 rebounds, seven blocks, six steals, and two assists. For a player who is now part of the second unit, Mitch has done a fantastic job of cleaning up the glass and was the single biggest thorn in Joel Embiid’s side throughout the series.

The Pacers’ leading scorer in the playoffs, Pascal Siakam has averaged 22.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists this postseason. The 6’8 forward has been doing it all: smart shooting and high rebounding prolificacy with impressive efficiency from the field (54.7%). Pacers’ second-leading scorer Myles Turner had an impressive first-round series against the Bucks, averaging 19.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.8 assists. At six-foot-eleven, he is impactful both offensively and defensively, stretching the floor from three while remaining a dominating deterrent at the rim. The Knicks are no stranger to stretch-bigs after playing Embiid, but Turner’s love of the three-point shot will force Thibs to make some decisions defensively.

All in all, it’s safe to say that Knicks fans are up for another special-round series against the Pacers as two completely opposite teams clash.

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