Keys to a Knicks win over Indiana in Game Six

keys to a knicks win over indiana in game six

Keys to a Knicks win over Indiana in Game Six

The New York Knicks lead their semifinals series 3-2 and are one win away from their first Eastern Conference finals appearance since 2000. On Friday, the Indiana Pacers will try to extend the series in Game Six at home, where they are 5-0 this postseason. That tally includes three wins over the Milwaukee Bucks and two over the Knicks. The odds won’t be in the visitors’ favor tomorrow night, but the Knicks thrive in the underdog role. [Insert obligatory sentence about excessive injuries, grit, next man up, etc.] Whoever wins this series will face the Boston Celtics in the next round. The longer this series persists, the longer the Celts will rest. It behooves our heroes to wrap up these semis post haste. Here are some keys to making that happen.

Extra rest

In a stroke of luck beneficial to the banged-up Knicks, Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever got them an extra day of rest. New York’s Game Six would have been played on Thursday in Indianapolis, but the WNBA’s Fever share the Gainbridge Fieldhouse with the Pacers, and the much ballyhooed rookie Clark will make her homecourt debut there on May 16.

Hence, the Knicks will square off with the Hoosiers on Friday, which gives them their longest break between games in the semis. That means an extra day of preparation and rest—the latter being especially important for the health of Jalen Brunson’s foot and Isaiah Hartenstein’s Achilles.

In Game Two, a sore right foot kept Brunson out of the second quarter, but he played through pain in the second half to deliver a 130-121 victory at Madison Square Garden. Given how flat his jumper was in Games Three and Four, it appeared that the foot was a lingering issue. By Tuesday, he was well enough to score 44 points in 43 minutes, his fifth 40-point game in the playoffs. He scored at will from all over the floor, but especially in the paint.

Nevertheless, an extra day of recovery can’t hurt the presumably tender hoof. As for Hartenstein, he has not complained about his Achilles tendinopathy, but it was an ongoing issue heading into the postseason. After Isaiah’s monster Game Five, in which we almost felt embarrassed for Big Hick Myles Turner, let’s assume that an extra day will help him to repeat his authoritative performance (more on that below).

Harass Haliburton

Tyrese Haliburton has averaged 18.5 points, 8.2 assists, and five rebounds in 11 games through the 2024 playoffs. In five games against the Knicks, he’s averaged 21.6 points, 6.8 assists and four rebounds. After managing just six points in Game One, the point guard scored 34 and 35 points in Games Two and Three respectively. His trash talk during Indiana’s Game Four blowout was particularly trying given its airy, hollow center.

On Tuesday, however, Tyrese Haliburton had a quiet game with only 13 points and five assists. His lack of impact was noticeable, and when he struggles, the Pacers tend to fall apart. By midway through the third frame, with the Knicks slapping the Pacers on their fannies, Haliburton had taken only four shots. Pascal Siakam and Myles Turner can produce points but have shown no competence as floor generals. In fact, Indiana’s strongest leader is probably TJ McConnell, their second unit’s point guard who is often, perplexingly, forgotten by coach Rick Carlisle.

Haliburton is also dealing with several issues (back, ankle, emotional), so the aforementioned rest may benefit him, too. But, if the Knicks keep harassing him, with Deuce McBride leading the charge, they will keep Hali in the spin cycle and the Pacers will flail and fail.

Team effort and smart coaching

Knicks’ coach Tom Thibodeau did not hold a film session after the gaudy Game Four loss. Their mistakes had been obvious and so were the fixes–to the coach, at least. His strategic move to start McBride over Precious Achiuwa paid off. The small-ball lineup provided more shooting and spacing, and Precious came off the bench fresh, ready to slam the glass and swat down shots.

The frontcourt performed admirably despite Thibodeau’s starting lineup change. How brawny was Isaiah Hartenstein in Game Five? He finished the night with 12 offensive rebounds (17 total boards), becoming the ninth player in NBA history to do so in a playoff game. The others? Shaquille O’Neal, Moses Malone, Jonas Valanciunas, Tyson Chandler, Dean Garrett, Dennis Rodman, Larry Smith, and OAKAAKUYOAK Charles Oakley (still not coming).

Josh Hart, Miles McBride, and Alec Burks combined for 53 points and 10 three-pointers, all significantly contributing to the Knicks’ win. The odd man out was Donte DiVincenzo. He logged seven rebounds and three steals in his 30 minutes of play, but dropped only eight points and shot 29% from the field, missing all six three-point attempts. The Knicks will likely need a top-level performance from everyone–including DiVo–if they want to whip the Pacers, and whip them good.

Maintain their team identity

The Knicks bounced back from their worst loss of the season (Game Four) with a performance that reflected their true identity, demonstrating their endless energy and resilience. In Tuesday’s commanding win, they had outrebounded Indiana 53-29, grabbed 20 offensive boards to the Pacers’ five, and consequently attempted 29 more shots. The Knicks’ harassing defense led to 18 Indiana turnovers, twice as many as New York committed, and the Pacers missed eight of their final nine three-point attempts.

All that gloating makes it sound like Indiana stunk in Game Five. Au contraire, Pepé Le Pew. The Pacers shot well, hitting 44% from downtown. By midway through the second half, they had made 11 of 19 three-point attempts. They benefited from favorable officiating, taking 16 free throws compared to New York’s 10, and they kicked off the fourth quarter with nine straight points. Nevertheless, New York’s dervish defense held the potent Pacers to a mere 91 points, about 30 off their regular season average.

Even better? The Knicks won all four quarters of Game Five. Too many times this postseason (and regular, to be honest) they have surrendered early leads and played from behind. On Friday, in hostile territory, against a team desperate to extend their season, New York would do themselves a big favor to exert their dominance early and win the first quarter.

One win and the Knicks will play in their first Eastern Conference finals since 2000. The undefeated-at-Gainbridge Pacers will make tomorrow’s game a slugfest while they try to stay alive in the postseason. Despite the odds, the Knicks will benefit from an extra day of rest, and if they continue to attack Haliburton, maintain team effort, and stay true to their identity, the series will be theirs.

Close ‘em out, Knicks!

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