Knicks move past Pacers after nearly losing huge early lead

Recent history was starting to repeat itself, and not the one the Knicks wanted to relive.

A 25-point lead was reduced to two, and the large Madison Square Garden crowd groaned at every Pacers’ field goal and the costly turnover committed by the Knicks.

Only two nights earlier, the Knicks had lost a 17-point lead late in the third quarter over the Bucks. Afterwards, Jalen Brunson said he needed to be better, despite scoring 44 points. In the clutch, he was better on Wednesday, ensuring the Pacers didn’t come back all the way.

He scored on a driving scoop, then buried a 3-point left corner, and the Knicks survived, 119-113, to find themselves tied for sixth with the Eastern Conference Pacers.

“[Coach Tom Thibodeau] emphasize it this morning in filming,” Quentin Grimes said. “These are the games that are decisive later in the season, because later it could be a tiebreaker.”

Jalen Brunson, who scored 34 points, set up a jumper in the Knicks' 119-113 win over the Pacers.
Jalen Brunson, who scored 34 points, set up a jumper in the Knicks’ 119-113 win over the Pacers.
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RJ Barrett, who scored 27 points, in the Knicks' win over the Pacers.
RJ Barrett, who scored 27 points, in the Knicks’ win over the Pacers.
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The evening began with Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton in the spotlight following recent critical remarks from MSG Knicks analyst Wally Szczerbiak and Haliburton saying those comments motivated him. The Knicks, however, did a good job on Haliburton, limiting him to 15 points on 12 shots in 27 minutes before leaving the game late in the third quarter with left knee and left elbow injuries.

Without him, the Pacers (23-19) staged a furious rally, coming back nearly 25 points in the third quarter. The lead was just two after Buddy Hield’s 3-pointer with 3:10 remaining. But Brunson responded with the next seven points for the Knicks (23-19) and Grimes iced the game with a left wing 3-pointer after spending most of the fourth quarter as they avoided another loss. home. On possession, it looked like Grimes had an open layup, but he decided to pull it back before later sinking the long jumper, his fourth 3-pointer of the night.

Julius Randle, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds, goes for a shot in the Knicks' win.
Julius Randle, who had 14 points and 16 rebounds, goes for a shot in the Knicks’ win.
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Quentin Grimes hits home a dunk on Buddy Hield in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' win.
Quentin Grimes hits home a dunk on Buddy Hield in the fourth quarter of the Knicks’ win.
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“I thought he had a layup, but he said he wanted a 3 so he shot a 3,” Brunson said. “That’s a lot of confidence from him.”

Brunson had 34 points to lead the way, RJ Barrett added 27 and eight rebounds on his return from a slashed right index finger, and Grimes had 18 and five rebounds. Hield scored 31 for the Pacers, who transformed the game by becoming small and blitzing Knicks ball-handlers. That led to seven second-half turnovers for the Knicks and 15 transition points for the Pacers.

Pacers guard Buddy Hield, who scored 31 points, goes up for a layup in the Knicks' win.
Pacers guard Buddy Hield, who scored 31 points, goes up for a layup in the Knicks’ win.
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“We scored 119 points, I’m not worried about us scoring. What worries me is our defense and not letting go,” Thibodeau said, referring to the Pacers who scored 72 points in the second half. “A 20-point lead, a 25-point lead is not safe in this league. If you watch the games, you see it. And you have to fight human nature. You can’t exhale.

The Knicks have obviously seen it firsthand, already leaving wide home leads this year to the Mavericks, Thunder, Hawks and Bucks in losses. This inability to hold the leads is why they have been so poor at home, now only 11-11. That they were able to prevail after blowing almost all of a huge cushion on Wednesday is progress. Especially since he came against the Pacers, one of the opponents they are fighting for the coveted sixth spot in the Eastern Conference.

“A win is a win in this league,” Brunson said, “especially [against] a team with which we fight for position.

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