The Knicks defeated the Pacers in a hectic Game 1 behind a great showing from the Villanova trio.

The New York Knicks (1-0) defeated the Indiana Pacers (0-1) in Game 1 of their conference semifinal series by a final score of 121-117. Despite being vastly outscored by Indiana’s bench and losing the rebounding battle for much of the first half, New York rested on their defensive laurels and the heroics of their Nova Boys to pull out the close victory.

The Knicks would be starting this series having lost a critical bench piece in Bojan Bogdanovic to wrist and ankle injuries. They managed to push past that and win their series against the Philadelphia 76ers but their rotation was sure to be a bit stretched thin entering this conference semifinal.

The Pacers, meanwhile, would continue to work without Bennedict Mathurin. They had found great success and flow offensively in their win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round.

The first opened with an almost too-easy bucket from Jalen Brunson. That was followed by a Donte DiVincenzo block that led to a transition dunk for Isaiah Hartenstein. Tyrese Haliburton settled his offense down, though, and hit a three to regain a small lead. The Pacers looked like they were locked in from three early on, while the Knicks were slowing the pace down and looking to share the ball for easier twos.

Brunson looked very locked in from tip, taking advantage of Indiana’s smaller defenders and getting into the paint with ease. Defensively, New York looked solid while Indiana was getting blown by. The Knicks just had to take advantage of the turnovers and misses they were generating more consistently to make this a first quarter to build off of. Former Knick Obi Toppin hit his first three-point attempt with about five minutes left in the period but missed his second heat check. Josh Hart then started to catch fire, hitting a three and an easy two in transition to get the Knicks’ lead up to six. TJ McConnell, a known Knick killer, started to heat up in transition in the late first. But the Knicks stayed poised and maintained a three-point lead heading into the second period.

The second started with a quick three from the Pacers, tying things up immediately. OG Anunoby was getting a lot of touches early on in the quarter but he kept turning the ball over, which led to easy buckets for this Pacers offense. Rebounds were also becoming an issue for New York, and that could pose a problem offensively for them as they looked for other ways to score without Julius Randle on the floor alongside Brunson. Anunoby finally hit a shot, a deep three that killed the momentum being built by the Pacers and McConnell.

Things were stagnant for the Knicks without Brunson scoring, as Indiana’s depth and ability to find scoring was starting to shine. New York was still hanging around behind some great offense from Brunson and effort from Hart. Back and forth they went with a few minutes to go in the quarter and the ‘Bockers finally tied things up again with a DiVincenzo layup with about two to go in the second. But Indiana used its speed to keep a lead headed into the second half as New York just missed some layups and was abysmal from three-point range aside from a ridiculous half-court shot from Isaiah Hartenstein.

The Knicks had to open the third with energy on the glass and start to hit more threes to keep pace with the Pacers. DiVincenzo hit a three to get things started but Indiana responded right back with an open three themselves. Trading shots wouldn’t cut it. New York had to get stops and hit shots. Hart continued to provide the energy on both ends of the floor — rebounding and scoring — that the Knicks had to figure out a way to replicate for everyone. Free throws were growing to be impactful for New York to stay in the game as they were taking advantage of poor defense from Indiana’s frontcourt.

The Knicks did finally, again, tie things up with about eight minutes left in the period and it felt like they could build off of this momentum. They continued to struggle to maintain a tie or get a lead due to sloppy ball handling. DiVincenzo got them a slim lead back with about five minutes left but Myles Turner responded with an immediate shot. DiVincenzo then hit a huge three followed by a floater from Hartenstein, and they were up five. Again, though, the Pacers got back to within one with about three left in the third. McConnell then checked back in and hit a quick layup to get the lead back. After a frenetic finish and Turner hitting a buzzer-beating three, the Pacers were up five headed into the final period of regulation.

The fourth started with a steal and two free throw shots by Indiana — not exactly what you want if you’re a Knicks team looking to make yet another comeback in a playoff opener. An Anunoby three injected some life for New York but its defense lost some of it. McConnell was the biggest issue on the Knicks’ hands. It seemed like every time he drove, he scored. Brunson came back into the game and immediately drew a foul and a trip to the free throw line to settle things down, and once again the goal was to get stops. They did, and they were only down four with about nine minutes left after a terrible start to the period.

Trading shots is what New York continued to do, much to the detriment of their own offense which was actually managing to keep them within striking distance of Indiana’s lead for much of the quarter. They tied things up again with five minutes left thanks to more Hart heroics, but the Knicks around him were not helping him out. Brunson hit a big three with about four minutes to go to get them to within two again and then hit two free throws to tie it up again. Anunoby got a steal and hit a dunk in transition, getting the lead back for the Knicks, and Brunson hit a jumper at the free-throw line to extend the lead to four.

With about a minute left in a tie game, Hart and Brunson committed two bad turnovers that gave the Pacers back the ball with about a minute to go. Indiana hit a quick layup to regain the lead but Brunson tied it up on the other end. DiVincenzo then hit a three to get the lead back up to three with 30 seconds to go. A Pascal Siakam layup got them to within one again, and after a flurry of fouls and challenges, the Knicks got the ball back with 12 seconds to go. Andrew Nembhard fouled Brunson, who hit a clutch free throw as he was waiting for an out-of-bounds pass. He was fouled again with time winding down and hit two free throws to get the lead up to four. The Knicks stole the ball on the other end, securing a win in yet another postseason thriller.

Brunson had an incredible 43 points along with six assists and six rebounds. DiVincenzo finished up with 25 points, three rebounds and two blocks. Hart had the best game for the Knicks, scoring 24 while grabbing 13 boards, dishing out eight assists and recording four stocks. Anunoby had 13 points, nine boards, four assists and two steals while Hartenstein finished with 13 points, six boards, and four assists.

The Knicks will host the Pacers again for Game 2 at The Garden at 8:00 PM EST on Wednesday.

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