Knicks vs. Pacers score, takeaways: Jalen Brunson erupts for 44 points as New

Jalen Brunson exploded for 44 points as the New York Knicks regained the lead in their second-round NBA playoff series against the Indiana Pacers with a 121-91 win in Game 5 on Tuesday night. The Knicks are up 3-2 in the best-of-seven series and are now one win away from their first trip to the Eastern Conference finals since 2000.

The Pacers blew out the Knicks in Sunday’s Game 4, leading by as many as 43 points in a series-tying victory. But it was a much different story in Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.

The Pacers will try to keep their season alive in Friday’s Game 6. The series will head back to Indianapolis, where the Pacers are unbeaten in these playoffs.

Here are four takeaways from New York’s Game 5 victory.

Jalen Brunson joins elite company

Either Brunson’s foot healed between Games 4 (when he was held to 18 points on 6-of-17 shooting) and 5 or he just decided to go Superman in spite of the pain. Either way, Brunson nuked the Pacers for 44 points on 34 shots. He went for 28 points in the first half, which is the highest mark in any half for a Knicks player in a playoff game in the play-by-play era (since 1996-97).

Overall, this marks the fifth time in this playoff run that Brunson has hit the 40-point mark. Have a look at the other members of that club, and further consider that Brunson is still in the second round.

Jerry West (1965) and LeBron James (2018) own the record for 40-point games in a single playoff run with eight. Again, Brunson is only in the second round. He’s got time, and he’s going to have to keep scoring big if the Knicks are going to advance.

Brunson sat out two minutes in the first half, and coach Tom Thibodeau said enough of that. Brunson didn’t sit again in tallying 46 minutes. He got into the paint — where the Knicks nearly doubled Indiana’s total — at will and had the full shotmaking arsenal going. The Pacers opted not to double Brunson for most of the night and Andrew Nembhard had basically no chance of staying with him.

You’d have to imagine that Rick Carlisle bet that Brunson would run out of gas if he made him score time and again without any rest. Carlisle lost that bet.

Haliburton no-show

Tyrese Haliburton finished with 13 points and five assists on nine shots. By the time the game was basically out of reach around the midpoint of the third quarter Haliburton had taken just four shots. This is a guy who had scored 89 points over Games 2-4 in this series.

It would be one thing if Haliburton was getting into the paint and consistently creating leverage as a passer, but he wasn’t. He wasn’t even the main initiator much of the time. Was the ankle/back bothering him? You would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, but the reality is it doesn’t matter. The Pacers do not stand any sort of chance with Brunson playing the way he did if Haliburton is going to be a complete no show.

Haliburton hasn’t been great for much of this postseason, a few big performances in this series aside, but this Game 4 showing specifically feels kind of concerning when he’s supposed to be your franchise player moving forward. He looked way too comfortable, in a game this big, fading completely to the background while his counterpart in Brunson was in locked in all night.

Hartenstein dominates glass

Isaiah Hartenstein became the ninth player in NBA history to tally 12 offensive rebounds in a playoff game, joining Jonas Valanciunas, Tyson Chandler, Dean Garrett, Dennis Rodman, Larry Smith, Charles Oakley, Shaquille O’Neal and Moses Malone, who did it four times.

Hartenstein absolutely murdered the Pacers, who were having a hard enough time containing Brunson to then have to defend multiple shots on so many possessions.

Look at the final ledger and you’ll see that Indiana actually made more free throws than New York and matched their 12 made 3-pointers. So how did they lose by 30? By taking almost 30 fewer shots: The Knicks took 101 shots to Indiana’s 72. That’s a result of all the second shots the Knicks got off of the boards (20-5 total disparity on the offensive glass)  and the 18 Indiana turnovers to New York’s nine.

It’s simple math: You take 29 more shots than your opponent, you’re going to score more points almost every single time.

All hands on deck

The Knicks are not in a position for anyone on the court to not be contributing in a big way; they simply don’t have enough healthy bodies (that Thibs also trusts enough to play) for anyone to pull a no-show.

That wasn’t a problem in Game 5, when Josh Hart, Miles McBride and Alec Burks combined for 53 points and 10 3-pointers. McBride got the start in place of Precious Achiuwa as Thibs elected to go smaller for more shooting and more spacing for Jalen Brunson to work with. It was a master stroke in both regards.

Huge props to Burks, who has gone from completely out of the rotation to putting up 52 points on 9-of-18 3-point shooting over the last three games. That is not easy to do under any circumstances, let alone after not logging a single minute in the first-round series vs. the Sixers.

You hear the phrase “stay ready” a lot for guys who are glued to the bench and then are suddenly expected to jump up, throw of their warmups and start making shots, but it’s a lot easier said than done. Huge props to Burks, who is just a professional bucket getter.

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