Knicks vs. Pacers score: Indiana destroys depleted New York team in Game 4, ties

The New York Knicks haven’t played a single easy game this postseason. The average margin of victory in their first nine playoff games was 5.9 points. Eight of those nine games featured either a fourth-quarter tie or a one-point lead in the final frame. Many of these games have featured controversial and emotional endings. Just watching the 2024 Knicks postseason run has been exhausting.

On Sunday, we got a glimpse of just how exhausting it must have been to play in it. After three weeks of nail-biters, the Knicks finally folded. They were blown off of the court in a 121-89 Pacers victory to tie their second-round series at two games apiece.

In the grand scheme of things, we should have seen this coming. The Knicks entered this series without rotation mainstays Julius Randle and Bojan Bogdanovic. Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby joined them on the sidelines as the series progressed. Jalen Brunson is playing through an injury we know about. It’s not hard to imagine that several other players are playing through injuries we don’t know about given the workloads they’ve endured.

Josh Hart entered Game 3 having averaged 46.4 minutes per game this postseason. Brunson is just under 42 despite missing a good chunk of Game 2 due to injury. Donte DiVincenzo has played at least 43 in all three Pacers games. Isaiah Hartenstein averaged roughly 38 minutes in the first three Pacers games despite playing most of the second half of the season with an Achilles injury.

New York managed to brush all of that off in their first nine playoff games. It finally overwhelmed them in Game No. 10. Just about every statistical advantage the Pacers had tells the story of a healthy, fresh team running over a group that had simply run out of gas.

Indiana shot well from deep at 14-of-31. The Knicks were far worse at 7-of-37. New York had been the best 3-point shooting team of the postseason having made 40.4% of its looks in those first nine games. It was the way the Knicks kept missing in Game 4 that gave away their exhaustion. Shot after shot clanked off the front of the rim. Misses like that are a telltale sign that a team’s legs are gone. They couldn’t generate enough power on their shots to get them through the rim.

Rebounding is New York’s superpower. The Knicks led the NBA in rebounding rate in the regular season. They pulled in 17 more total rebounds in the first three games of this series than the Pacers. But Indiana managed to win the rebounding battle in Game 4, 52-43. The Knicks lead the postseason in total boxouts, per NBA.com tracking data, but they barely did so in Game 4. Pacer after Pacer was able to glide through empty lanes to pull in uncontested boards in the win. If the Knicks aren’t rebounding, something is seriously wrong.

Indiana’s identity is, pun only somewhat intended, its pace. That was well on display in Game 4, as the Pacers dominated in terms of fast-break points, 22-5. The Knicks have been willing to indulge in Indiana’s fast-paced playing style so far in the series, but the Knicks could no longer keep up by Game 4. It’s a bit of a reversal from what we expect in the postseason. Normally, the slower team manages to drag the faster one down to its preferred tempo. That hasn’t been the case in this matchup. While the overall pace has technically declined slightly from New York’s league-low 95.96 possessions per game in the regular season, that dip is minuscule compared to the decline other playoff teams experience. The Knicks just haven’t been able to slow the Pacers down enough.

One theoretical advantage to a blowout like this is that it should have allowed the Knicks to get their best players out quickly so they could rest up for Game 5. Tom Thibodeau stubbornly stuck with his starters for most of the third quarter. DiVincenzo, for instance, still managed to play 32 minutes in Game 4. That’s roughly the workload of an average Pacers starter in this series over a full game.

It’s not as though the Knicks have an extended break to rest up for Game 5. They return to New York on Tuesday, and the winner will have chance to clinch the series in Game 6 on Thursday. Maybe the Knicks will find an answer by then. Maybe, against the current expectation, they manage to get Anunoby back. But if Game 4 was any indication, the Knicks are finally starting to feel the weight of their exhausting postseason, while the Pacers are still raring to go.

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