WWA Sports >Football World >Knicks-Pacers: 5 takeaways from Indiana's staunch Game 6 stand

Knicks-Pacers: 5 takeaways from Indiana's staunch Game 6 stand

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In an emphatic Game 6 win, Pascal Siakam showed exactly why Indiana traded for him.

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We haven’t had a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden since 1995.

The winner of that game was the Indiana Pacers, with Patrick Ewing missing a game-tying finger roll at the buzzer. And it was the Pacers who forced another Game 7 at MSG with a 116-103 victory over the New York Knicks in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Friday.

Indiana took control with a 17-2 run late in the second quarter, dominated the paint, and rebounded well enough to improve to 6-0 at home in these playoffs. They were the more desperate team and they played like it, continuing to play fast on offense and showing a lot more toughness on defense than they displayed in Game 5.

Here are some notes, quotes, numbers and film as the Pacers improved to 6-0 at home in the playoffs and booked another trip back to New York for Game 7 on Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) …


1. Pacers dominate the paint and the glass

The Pacers had outscored the Knicks by 40 points in the paint over the first four games of this series, but the Game 5 score in the paint was 62-36 in favor of the Knicks, with New York also obtaining an incredible 50% of available offensive rebounds.

The script was flipped in Game 6, when the Pacers were a plus-24 (62-38) in the paint, the Knicks’ worst differential of the season (94 total games). Some of that was the Pacers pushing in transition, moving the ball and consistently looking to attack.

Some of it was their defense. The Knicks’ 18-for-41 (43.9%) shooting in the paint was their fourth-worst mark of the season (94 total games). Indiana blocked eight of those shots, with Isaiah Jackson recording three blocks in less than 12 minutes off the bench.

Of course, defensive possessions, especially when you’re playing the Knicks, aren’t done until a rebound has been secured. The Pacers were much better on the defensive glass, with New York’s offensive rebounding percentage of 32.0% being its third-lowest mark of the postseason. (The Knicks are 6-0 when they’ve grabbed more than 34% of available offensive boards.)

The Pacers, meanwhile, had more offensive rebounds (14) than the Knicks (13). Jackson had just one of those 14, but drew two loose-ball fouls on the offensive glass on a single possession early in the fourth quarter.

“It was just activity,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said of his team’s interior success on Friday. “We played harder tonight, which was a must.”


2. Knicks play small, Siakam plays big

The Knicks changed their starting lineup in Game 5, replacing Precious Achiuwa with Miles McBride. It gave New York more spacing around Jalen Brunson.

But it also made the Knicks smaller up front. Pascal Siakam took advantage of that change, playing big and scoring a team-high 25 points, with 17 of those coming in the paint (14) or at the free throw line.

Early in the first quarter, Siakam got a layup after a Knicks bucket on the other end of the floor. Tyrese Haliburton got the ball up the floor quickly and Siakam got behind Josh Hart, who had his eyes on the ball …

Pascal Siakam layup

Later in the first, Siakam established early post position against McBride and drew a foul. A few possessions later, he drew another by taking Donte DiVincenzo under the basket.

In the second quarter, Siakam really went to work against Hart by posting him up …

Pascal Siakam post-up basket vs. Josh Hart

He got two more post-up scores against Hart after that. Then he had another matchup against McBride and, when the Knicks brought two extra defenders, Siakam found Myles Turner for a dunk …

Pascal Siakam assist to Myles Turner

The Knicks didn’t go back to their big lineup for the second half, but they put Isaiah Hartenstein (or Achiuwa) on Siakam, with Hart guarding Turner (or Jackson). But in the fourth quarter, with the Knicks’ bigs focused on rim protection, Siakam was twice able to find space to shoot in-rhythm jumpers after setting a ball screen.


3. Hart gets hurt

Prior to Game 6, Hart had averaged an incredible 43.7 minutes, what would be the highest mark for any player who played at least 10 games in the last 11 postseasons. And he had played all 48 (or all 53) minutes in four of the 11 games.

But on Friday, Hart asked to be subbed out midway through both the first and third quarters. He seemingly suffered an abdominal injury early on and was clearly in discomfort the rest of the night. He still played almost 31 minutes, but shot just 2-for-8 and (as noted above) had a tough time defending Siakam.

The Knicks are already without Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Bojan Bogdanovic and OG Anunoby. And with Hart now dealing with something, they have the shortest of turnarounds between Games 6 and 7. The last time they played in the afternoon less than 48 hours after a night game was Game 4, which they lost by 32.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t have an update on Hart after Game 6. Nor did he have much of an answer when asked about the possibility of Anunoby (hamstring strain) returning from a four-game absence to play in Game 7.

The Knicks are now 14-17 without Anunoby since his acquisition. In this series, they’ve been outscored by 28 points (19 per 100 possessions) in 79 total minutes with their other four starters on the floor without him, allowing the Pacers to score an uber-efficient 131.3 points per 100 possessions.


4. Tale of two halves for Brunson

There was some hope for the Knicks at halftime despite being down 10. First of all, they had trailed in eight of their previous 11 playoff games by double-digits and won five of those eight.

Secondly, they were down only 10 even though Brunson had shot 2-for-13 from the field and 1-for-4 from the free throw line. If he got going in the second half, they certainly had a shot.

And Brunson did get going in the second half, scoring 26 points (on 9-for-13 shooting) in less than 19 minutes. But it wasn’t enough.

Overall, the Pacers defended the Knicks’ star better than they did in Game 5. Aaron Nesmith was the primary defender again and did a good job of navigating screens. Haliburton was stronger with his hedges when his man set those screens. And the Pacers also had a couple of timely double-teams after Brunson burrowed his way into the paint …

Jalen Brunson double-team

But in the second half, Brunson was also able to take advantage of the Pacers’ pressure, both in the backcourt (breaking the press and driving for a layup) and in the frontcourt (cutting back door for another layup). He found a rhythm and then he started cooking.

Ultimately, Brunson’s second-half scoring didn’t mean much. And there hasn’t been much carry-over from game to game in this series. But he has shot much better in the three games at home (54%) than he has in Indiana (39%).


5. The difference is inside the Knicks’ offense

Brunson’s second-half scoring didn’t mean much because the Pacers scored 52 points on 34 second-half possessions (1.53 per) before Thibodeau initiated garbage time (by taking Brunson out) with a little less than four minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Game 5, when they held the postseason’s No. 1 offense under a point per possessions, was the Knicks’ best defensive game of the playoffs. But their defense didn’t travel and Game 6 was one of their worst.

Still, the bigger difference between New York wins and Indiana wins in this series has been on the the Knicks’ end of the floor …

Knicks and Pacers’ efficiency, conf. semis

GamesNYK OffRtgIND OffRtgNew York wins131.0116.7Indiana wins107.6125.2Diff.23.4-8.5

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

That’s more about their shooting in the paint (60.3% vs. 46.5%) than their shooting from the outside (effective field goal percentage of 56.9% vs. 50.0%). The Pacers were tougher defensively in Game 6 and may need to be even better at Madison Square Garden on Sunday afternoon.

* * *

John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X. 

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery

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