Despite Knicks’ injuries, Pacers’ playoff run deserves praise

Rick Carlisle was right. And the head coach of the Indiana Pacers has been around the NBA long enough to know he was telling the truth.

“When you win Game 7 at Madison Square Garden (as a visitor), you’ve made history. It’s very, very difficult to do that,” said Carlisle, 64, who is no longer playing or coaching in the NBA. are doing. Till 40 years. “We are uninvited guests, but that is who we are.”

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that the upstart Pacers – the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs, who had won only 25 games just two years ago – had the greatest shooting night in NBA playoff history on Sunday when they defeated the New York Knicks 130–0. 109. He shot 67.1 percent from the field for the game, which had never been done before.

Never. And they’ve been keeping a scorebook for a long time.

Doing it at Madison Square Garden makes it even more special. They call it the “Mecca” for a reason, which is why many people consider it the most important area of ​​the game. But the pacers didn’t care. The home team had won all six games in this series, and the Pacers lost by 30 in Game 5 last Tuesday. Despite all the injuries ravaging the Knicks roster, they were still a slight underdog in Game 7.

But the pacers came out and immediately created the atmosphere. He scored at will in the first half, scoring 70 points and making 10 of his first 11 shots and 16 of 21 in the first quarter – 76.2 percent. He also kept scoring, maybe not at the same pace, but his 130 points in Game 7 were tied for third most all-time.

That’s what Pacers like to do. He led the league in scoring this season, and when he gets going, he’s very hard to stop. Point guard Tyrese Haliburton runs the show, and he can hurt you in a lot of ways.

“It’s a testament to our coaching staff and our offense,” veteran Pacers center Myles Turner said. “Obviously we had a historic offense, but this guy (Haliburton) started things and everybody followed. To do that on the road when you’re at the Garden in Game 7 is obviously unprecedented. That’s what we did.” That’s been happening throughout the season and it showed on the big stage.”

This is the second consecutive series that the Pacers have won as underdogs. This is the second consecutive series they have won against a bad roster. The Bucks were without reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo for the entire series, and sharp-shooter Damien Lillard missed time and didn’t play at 100 percent.

So what.

Injuries are part of the game in the NBA and the Pacers don’t need to apologize to anyone for being one of the last four teams. Twenty-six teams cannot win the 2024 NBA Championship, but the Pacers are one of four who can. Sure, they’re massive longshots, but they’re still alive.

And they still have a chance.

Because this is the Knicks and – more importantly – this is New York, the media capital of the world, no one gave Indiana a chance to win this series. All 16 of ESPN’s NBA “experts” picked the Knicks to win. Not a single person chose the Pacers. Turner joked in the post-game press conference that he took a picture of his favorite with his phone. It certainly serves as inspiration.

When it’s New York against small-market Indiana, all the conversation centers around the Knicks. The stories were more about whether Jalen Brunson became a star – he did – and how many of his teammates were either sidelined or dealt with injuries throughout the series.

These are facts, of course, but they are not “excuses.” The Knicks, to their credit, gave it their all. Role player Donte DiVincenzo scored 39 points and made nine threes. Seldom-used veteran guard Alec Burks scored 26. This is his 13th year in the NBA and he has played for seven different teams – mostly in obscurity. But he was there fighting.

“Knowing that this team gave its best effort all year, I can live with the result,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “It’s disappointing, but in the end only one team will be happy. Twenty-nine teams will fall short. This team fought like crazy and has no regrets.”

Which is why the Pacers still deserve a lot of credit for pulling it off. It’s incredible to shoot lights like those, especially in a place like Madison Square Garden. Playing with confidence is also something, because this is a very young team going into the playoffs for the first time.

This is all new for them.

We know the Pacers can score. They’ve been doing this all year. But they are also below average defensively and get caught on the boards too much. However they are trying to change that narrative, and we saw that on Sunday. They defended when they needed to, countered when they needed to and answered every Knicks run with a run of their own.

It was a beautiful, reassuring victory.

“I know we shot well, but we beat them on the boards and at halftime we had a more loose ball than they did,” Carlisle said. “This team was much maligned for their defense at the beginning of the year. They’ve flipped the script. They won this series with grit and guts and physical play. 94 feet of pressure.

“That’s how we beat Milwaukee. You have to give these guys a lot of credit, not for a complete turnaround, but for a very significant change in the approach to defense, the defiance, the importance of defense and what they did today.”

You definitely have to feel for the Knicks, who also lost Brunson with a fractured hand in the second half. One kind of injury too many, isn’t it? And you have to feel for former Indiana Hoosier OG Anunoby, who missed most of the series due to a hamstring injury. He started Game 7, even though he probably had no business being on the floor. He could barely move, but still hit his first two shots.

He only had five minutes to give, but he did. But even he could not protect anyone. Pascal Siakam, his former teammate in Toronto, scored four consecutive baskets against him and OG never recovered.

“I wasn’t going in thinking I was going to test him, but obviously he didn’t look healthy,” Siakam said. He took some shots early. I like OG. Seeing him there, I was first making sure that he was okay. I know it’s Game 7 and you want to give everything, but you have to stay healthy and he didn’t look healthy.”

In the end, all that matters is the Pacers advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals. The top-seeded Boston Celtics are next, and they are the hottest conference favorite since the 1997 Chicago Bulls who have won 69 games.

No one is picking the Indiana Pacers. again.

Which is absolutely fine with the Pacers. They’ll look confident heading into Game 1 Tuesday night in Boston. They have had some success against Boston this season, winning twice, including in the play-in tournament, but they lost 51 in the boat-race one night at the TD Garden.

All the experts will weigh in and choose the Celtics. They’re not haters, Pacers fans, they’re just sharing their opinions. Heck, I even picked the Celtics to win everything in November. They are really good.

But at the moment, the pacers are also doing many good things. Despite their good fortune of playing lesser teams, they deserve your praise.

It’s all about surviving and moving forward and that’s exactly what the Pacers have done. They may not have much against the Celtics, but they have a chance.

And that’s what makes it fun. It’s the end of May and basketball is still being played in Indiana. I’ll take it.

Tom Brew is a national basketball columnist for FastBreak on FanNation. He publishes seven sites on the Sports Illustrated/Fanaction Network. You can follow him on Twitter (X) @tombrewsports.

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