The Knicks got back to their hustling, hounding ways and won their first blowout of the playoffs, taking a 3-2 advantage in the series.

The New York Knicks (3-2) won a must-win game against the Indiana Pacers (2-3) at Madison Square Garden, responding emphatically to a blowout suffered in Game 4 on the road and finally winning big, 121-91.

They did this behind 15 offensive boards, 17 second-chance points, and 26 paint points mostly facilitated by Isaiah Hartenstein and Josh Hart. Jalen Brunson’s 44-point performance also helped.

Deuce McBride was given the start tonight in place of Precious Achiuwa, who had slid into the starting lineup after an injury to OG Anunoby (hamstring). In addition to Anunoby, Mitchell Robinson (ankle), Bojan Bogdanovic (ankle, hand), and Julius Randle (shoulder) would all be out.

The first had to open with energy, especially after such a low-energy and embarrassing showing this past weekend for Game 4. That is not what the Knicks’ defense was giving in the first few minutes, allowing easy drives to the basket and switching with too little effort. Offensively, things ran through Brunson and were slowing down a little too much, though McBride hitting his first three of the night was a welcome sign as he was inserted into the lineup.

They started to play with more tempo as the first really got underway, and that led to some good looks in the paint and helped to involve Knicks not named Jalen Brunson. Defensively, though, New York was just not doing a great job of getting consistent stops. Hart finally took an open shot after a few were shown to him early in the period, and that seemed to put a pep in his step on offense. That pace pushing got them back to within two after an off-kilter start. Brunson also looked much better from Game 4, getting to the rim and finishing and taking contact. They finally got a lead back with about two minutes left in the quarter with some much better defense and elite scoring sequences from Hart. New York finally had some control for the first time since Game 3, and they led by six entering the second quarter.

The second opened with Brunson getting the Pacers defense on skates and finishing a layup to widen their lead. They then generated another turnover, leading to a fast-break dunk by Donte DiVincenzo. Things got spicy after a hard foul on DiVincenzo by Isaiah Jackson, leading to a brief confrontation between him and Hartenstein. Foul trouble then started to bog down the pace of this contest, with most calls going against the Knicks on Pacers possessions.

Despite that slowed-down pace, New York certainly looked like the more poised team. Brunson was doing a great job controlling the Knicks’ offense and creating space, while New York’s defenders made fewer mistakes in their switching. They had a 14-point lead with about six minutes to go in the first half, and things felt cohesive on both ends of the floor for the first time in forever. The Knicks’ second unit, or rather their unit without Brunson on the floor, might have been the one negative in the first half. They looked lost offensively without their glue guy, so Brunson’s rest was cut short. The pace was rapid to end the second, and New York was just dominant. Despite the foul woes, and despite Indiana making some small push back plays at the end of the quarter, the Knicks led by 15 through two.

To start the third, the Knicks were looking to keep the Brunson train going with early touches. They were also looking to push in transition early, something they weren’t doing to open the game, which was causing them to struggle. Their transition defense still looked shaky, leading to three easy threes from Myles Turner to get the Pacers back to within seven. Those shots threatened to be a momentum killer for a Knicks squad that had otherwise been cruising with confidence to end the first half. Aaron Nesmith was also making things uncomfortable for Brunson, eliminating their best shot on offense.

McBride continued his reliable shooting for the night, hitting another three to kill some Pacers momentum. Quickly following that, Brunson hit a three fading away in the corner, extending the lead back to 16. They were up by as many as 20 with about five minutes to go in the third, which felt like the largest lead they had held all series but this writer was too involved in the game to go look that up. Another fight nearly broke out after a DiVincenzo putback dunk put them up by 22, with Turner getting physical on a screen of him and that leading to some words between the two. After that was managed, New York maintained a nice cushion – a 21-point lead – headed into the fourth behind some incredible rebounding and solid offense all around.

The Knicks had to just play 12 minutes of solid basketball to maintain their big lead and close this game out. But, fouls once again started to bog New York’s rhythm down and prevent them from settling in with many possessions to open the fourth. Indiana stormed back a bit, getting back to within 12 early in the period. Burks, as he had been doing all series, hit a big three to kill their run. The Knicks, after that three, finally started to settle in and got over the 100-point hump with about eight to go and as the Pacers were struggling to hit 90 points.

Indiana looked like they were discombobulated on defense without the same energy they opened the game with, leading to several turnovers. Burks continued to feast from three-point range, and with about five minutes to go, he was helping maintain a 24-point lead. With three to go, fans started to get on their feet, feeling the first no-doubter win for the Knicks in the entire postseason. Head coach Tom Thibodeau started to trickle his bench onto the court, giving his starters some rest ahead of a pivotal Game 6 in Indiana on Friday night.

Brunson had the biggest scoring night for the team, scoring 44. He also had seven assists and four boards. Hartenstein was one of the most impactful Knicks on the floor, though, grabbing a huge 17 rebounds. He also had seven points, five assists, and one block. Hart had a solid night as well, scoring 18, grabbing 11 rebounds, and dishing out 3 assists. He also had one steal and one block. DiVincenzo had an energy-driven game, recording eight points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals, and one block. McBride impressed in his postseason start, scoring 17, dishing four assists, and grabbing a board.

Burks was huge off the bench, scoring 18 points and grabbing five boards. Achiuwa had a great game defensively, grabbing five boards. He also had four points, two assists, two steals, and two blocks. Jericho Sims, Mamadi Diakite, Shake Milton, and DaQuan Jeffries all saw garbage time thanks to the blowout but didn’t record any eye-popping stats.

New York will now have a chance to punch their ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals on Friday night in Indiana, with a time to be determined by the league.

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