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May 16, 2024 8:08 pm

Knicks focus on finishing off Pacers, avoiding Game 7

Brunson

The New York Knicks are one victory away from reaching the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2000.

New York will be swinging hard to end that drought when it visits the Indiana Pacers for Game 6 of their second-round series on Friday night in Indianapolis.

The second-seeded Knicks hold a 3-2 edge in the series and are certainly confident after pounding the sixth-seeded Pacers 121-91 at home in Game 5.

But they are also cautious, as nothing is guaranteed until the final seconds tick off to signify a fourth win in the series.

“We still need one more win so we can’t get too excited about it,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to understand what we need to do, stay focused on the task at hand. If you feel good about yourself you get knocked down in this league. We’ve got to be ready to go.”

New York star guard Jalen Brunson poured in 44 points in Game 5. It was his second 40-point effort in the series and his fifth overall this postseason.

Brunson is averaging 32 points in the series while dealing with a foot injury. He also called on the Knicks to stay grounded.

“I think as a team, no matter what the situation is, we have the same mindset no matter what,” Brunson said. “And regardless of how I’m feeling or someone else is feeling, we know what’s at stake, we know what we have to do and we’re going to figure it out.”

Knicks forward OG Anunoby will miss his fourth straight game due to a hamstring injury sustained in Game 2.

Indiana coach Rick Carlisle expects an improved effort with his club facing elimination.

The Pacers were outrebounded 53-29, including 20-5 on the offensive glass, in Game 5. New York possessed a 62-36 edge in points in the paint.

“If we don’t get stops and rebounds, our game is not going to look good,” Carlisle said. “We’re not going to be able to get the ball out, all of our playmakers aren’t going to have opportunities to get the ball and attack. If you take the ball out of the net, particularly after free throws and offensive rebounds, you’re climbing an uphill battle.”

Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton wants to see his team execute better and not crumble under the weight of adversity.

“When things are going bad, we just have to do a better job of coming better together as a group,” Haliburton said. “I felt we were a little frenzied (in Game 5). … That starts with me as a leader.”

Indiana has been a different team at home with a 5-0 mark in the postseason, including victories by five and 32 in this series.

Of course, the situation will be pressure-packed as the Pacers have to win twice to win the series.

“It’s the first elimination game that we’ve faced,” said Carlisle, who is in the third season of his second stint as Indiana coach. “There’s always a high level of urgency, but when you face the possibility of the ending of your season, it certainly should be at a fever pitch.”

The Knicks have wiggle room but neither Thibodeau nor Brunson want to see the series go back home for a Game 7 on Sunday.

“I think the most important thing is to not get lost in the hyperbole and the distractions and focus and lock into the task at hand, which is winning the game,” Thibodeau said. “So put the necessary work into it and don’t get lost.”

–Field Level Media

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