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Field Level Media - Professional sports content solutions | FLM

May 7, 2024 1:46 pm

Pacers look to muzzle Knicks’ Villanova trio in Game 2

brunson divincenzo

The “Villanova Three” hit plenty of big shots Monday night for New York. Indiana didn’t benefit from last-minute officiating calls.

In other words, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals went exactly as the Knicks and Pacers expected.

Second-seeded New York will look to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series on Wednesday night when it hosts sixth-seeded Indiana.

The Knicks earned a 121-117 win in Game 1 Monday. Donte DiVincenzo put New York ahead for good by draining a tie-breaking 3-pointer with 40.1 seconds left and just 12 seconds after Pacers guard Aaron Nesmith was erroneously whistled for a kicked ball violation.

DiVincenzo, Jalen Brunson and Josh Hart, all of whom played on Villanova’s national championship-winning team in 2016, combined to score 92 points for the Knicks. Brunson finished with a game-high 43 as he became the fourth player in NBA history — along with Michael Jordan, Bernard King and Jerry West — to score at least 40 points in four straight playoff games.

“He’s the engine,” Hart said. “We’re going to go as far as he goes.”

DiVincenzo, Brunson and Hart were especially effective in the fourth quarter, when they combined for 34 of the Knicks’ 39 points. New York trailed 94-85 with 10:28 left before the trio scored the next 24 points for the hosts over a span of seven minutes.

“Go out there and just figure out how to win,” Brunson said. “We knew we had to play better tonight. They had our number for most of the night. We just made a couple plays down the stretch.”

The Pacers acknowledged they were displeased with the officiating down the stretch but also lamented their inability to close out the Knicks.

New York shot 65.0 percent from the field (26 of 40) from the field in the second half, including 63.6 percent (7 of 11) from 3-point range. The Knicks shot just 42.9 percent (18 of 42) from the field in the first 24 minutes, including 4 of 12 from beyond the arc.

“It’s right after the game — I’m a little fresh and open with my emotions about it, but we know at the end of the day that we can’t get into that position,” Turner said. “I think the Last 2 Minute Report, we’re all looking forward to that coming out. There were two controversial calls.”

Crew chief Zach Zarba said following the game that the kicked ball call on Nesmith was incorrect. Replays showed Brunson’s pass glanced off Nesmith’s hand and toward Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard.

“On the floor, we felt that would be a kicked ball violation,” Zarba told a pool reporter. “Postgame review did show that it hit the defender’s hand, which would be legal.”

DiVincenzo helped to ice the win with 12.1 seconds left, when he drew a moving screen against Myles Turner. DiVincenzo was defending point guard Tyrese Haliburton when he fell as Turner set a pick. The Pacers challenged the call, which was upheld.

“We’re not expecting to get calls in here,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “It’d be nice if they laid off that one, but they didn’t. So that’s just the way it goes. I mean, we challenged it, they reviewed it, they got a bunch of people in New Jersey that agreed with them.”

–Field Level Media

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