Home Sports NBA Playoffs: Jalen Brunson, after initial injury scare, leads Knicks past Pacers to win Game 2

NBA Playoffs: Jalen Brunson, after initial injury scare, leads Knicks past Pacers to win Game 2

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NBA Playoffs: Jalen Brunson, after initial injury scare, leads Knicks past Pacers to win Game 2

The Indiana Pacers looked poised to even the series Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.

Then Jalen Brunson came back.

Brunson, after suffering an injury early, returned to the game and led the Knicks to a key 130-121 victory over the Pacers in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. That gave the Knicks a 2-0 series lead as they return to Indianapolis.

“To be honest, I’m happy to be back,” Brunson said afterward on TNT. “We found a way. That’s all.”

The Pacers went on a 17-point first-half swing after the Knicks lost Brunson in the opening minutes, almost resulting in a perfect opportunity to steal a road game.

It appeared as if Brunson sprained his right foot while on defense late in the first quarter. He took an awkward step as he moved toward the line, and then immediately called for a substitution after the Pacers scored.

Brunson left the game after just eight minutes and returned to the locker room. His father, Knicks assistant coach Rick Brunson, left the bench in the second quarter to return to the locker room as well, although the team did not provide an update for quite some time. Finally, midway through the second quarter, the Knicks said Brunson was dealing with soreness in his right foot. It was initially doubtful he would return, but he returned at the start of the second half to a standing ovation in Manhattan.

The Knicks were up by seven points when Brunson left the court, although they entered halftime trailing by 10 points, marking a whopping 17-point turnaround for the Pacers. Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton scored 22 points in the first half and was 7 of 12 from the field, doubling his Game 1 shot attempts.

Brunson’s return seemed to make the difference for the Knicks. They took the lead almost instantly in the second half and came out of the gate with a 21-6 win. The Knicks held Indiana to just 18 points in the third quarter, 10 of which came in the final four minutes, and took an eight-point lead into the fourth quarter, completely changing the game after halftime.

However, the Knicks lost OG Anunoby to a leg injury in the third quarter after he stopped awkwardly while driving to the hoop. He was quickly ruled out with a left hamstring injury and finished with 28 points while making 10 of 19 field goals. It’s unclear how serious his injury is or if he will be available for Game 3 on Friday night.

Although the Pacers opened the fourth quarter with a quick 6-0 burst, Brunson responded with a huge layup to keep them ahead on multiple possessions.

The Knicks then used a 7-0 run, turning away a clutch 3-pointer from Donte DiVincenzo and then a perfect jumper from him to Precious Achiuwa to finally defeat the Pacers late in the period. That allowed them to win by nine points, giving them a two-game lead in the series.

Haliburton led the Pacers with 34 points, nine assists and six rebounds and was 7 of 11 from behind the arc. Andrew Nembhard added 15 points and Pascal Siakam finished with 14 points and eight rebounds. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle was also ejected in the final minute after arguing with officials over a double-dribble call that seemed like overflowing frustration.

Brunson finished with 29 points, all but five of which came in the second half, and five assists while shooting 11 of 18 from the field. DiVincenzo added 28 points and Josh Hart had 19 points and 15 rebounds.

Game 3 of the series is scheduled for Friday night in Indianapolis. While there are many questions about the Knicks’ health under both Brunson and Anunoby, the Knicks are in an incredible position to reach their first Eastern Conference finals since 2000.

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