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Brunson and Knicks bounce back to crush Pacers

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Victory on Friday night in Indianapolis would see the Knicks advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 24 years.

After losing Game 4 by 32 points, it was an emphatic response from the Knicks, with Brunson piling up 44 points with seven assists and four rebounds.

“He’s willing to share everything with his teammates, and to me, that is the best part of him,” said Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

“His play is spectacular but who he is as a teammate, as a leader, it makes us that. Big shot after big shot,” added the Knicks coach.

The Knicks destroyed Indiana in the paint, with Isaiah Hartenstein leading the way with 17 rebounds (12 offensive) while Josh Hart had 11 rebounds (nine defensive).

Brunson’s impact had been limited in the past two games in the series, with concerns that his heavy workload and a foot injury may have slowed him down.

But there were no signs of fatigue in his prolific display as he reached the 40 mark for the fifth time this post-season.

Brunson, who had only 18 points in Sunday’s loss, shot 18 for 35 and put up 28 points in the first half — a playoff record for the Knicks.

It was his seven straight points, including a three-pointer to open up a 20-point lead at 106-86 that made sure of the victory.

“I just love that there is never any excuse-making from him. He’s never talking about injuries,” said Thibodeau.

“A lot of times when you hear people talking about their injuries, a lot of it is excuse-making and you never get that from him.”

The Pacers got off to a strong start and led 25-20 before the Knicks put together an 11-0 run to end the first quarter up 38-32. By halftime, it was 69-54 and New York were in no mood to let the lead slip.

Thibodeau said he expected the response to the blowout defeat from his team.

“They’ve shown that all year, that’s who they are. We still need one more win so we can’t be too excited about it,” he said.

Pascal Siakam led Indiana scoring with 22 points.

Later on Tuesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves face defending champions the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of their Western Conference semi-final, which stands at 2-2.

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