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Brunson leads Knicks to 3-2 lead | Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

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NEW YORK — The New York Knicks have one more step to climb to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2000.

Jalen Brunson, after a couple rough games, looks ready to take it.

Brunson scored 44 points, reaching 40 for the fifth time in this postseason, and the Knicks beat the Indiana Pacers 121-91 on Tuesday night for a 3-2 lead in their playoff series.

The Knicks rebounded from a blowout loss on Sunday and guaranteed themselves at least one more game at Madison Square Garden in front of their roaring fans who have been aching to see big games in late spring again. Josh Hart had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Miles McBride scored 17 points after he was inserted into the starting lineup.

The No. 2-seeded Knicks can win the series Friday night at Indiana after the first two-day break between games in the series. Caitlin Clark’s WNBA home debut with the Indiana Fever is scheduled for Thursday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday afternoon.

“We still need one more win so we can’t get too excited about it,” Knicks Coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We have to understand what we need to do, stay focused on the task at hand. If you feel good about yourself you get knocked down in this league. We’ve got to be ready to go.”

Brunson hurt his right foot in Game 2 and was limited to 18 points Sunday, his lowest of the postseason, when the Pacers ran the Knicks off the floor in a 121-89 romp. He kept insisting he was fine and there was no reason to question that Tuesday.

“I think as a team, no matter what the situation is, we have the same mindset no matter what,” Brunson said. “And regardless of how I’m feeling or someone else is feeling, we know what’s at stake, we know what we have to do and we’re going to figure it out.”

Pulling up quickly for three-pointers off the dribble or using his series of fakes and spins to set up soft jumpers in the lane, Brunson shot 18 for 35 and again looked like the player who finished fifth this season in MVP voting, not the one who shot 10 for 26 in Game 3 and 6 for 17 on Sunday.

He scored 28 in the first half, a Knicks playoff record, and then put away the game in the fourth with seven straight points, capped by a three-point play that made it 106-86 with 7:57 to go.

Brunson, who scored 43 in Game 1 to become the fourth player in NBA history with four consecutive 40-point games in the playoffs, had plenty of help.

Alec Burks, who had been out of the rotation entirely until re-emerging after a rash of injuries, added 18 points off the bench and Isaiah Hartenstein had seven points and 17 rebounds, helping the Knicks overwhelm the Pacers 53-29 on the glass.

“We got annihilated on loose balls, rebounds. Gave up 20 offensive rebounds and 29 more shots. So, we all own it,” Pacers Coach Rick Carlisle said. “But very embarrassing. Very embarrassing and a hard lesson.”

Pascal Siakam scored 22 points for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who will try to stay unbeaten at home in the postseason to force the decisive game. Myles Turner added 16 but All-Star Tyrese Haliburton had only 13 after averaging 29.7 over the last three games.

NUGGETS 112,

TIMBERWOLVES 97

NBA MVP Nikola Jokic put up 40 points, 13 assists and 7 rebounds to lead Denver past Minnesota in Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference second-round series at home Tuesday night.

The Nuggets won their third straight game after falling down 2-0 in the series to take a 3-2 lead. The road team had won every game of the series prior to Game 5.

Jokic had plenty of help as Aaron Gordon (18 points), Jamal Murray (16), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (16) and Christian Braun (10) scored in double figures while shooting 50% or better from the field.

Jokic went 15 of 22 from the field, 2 of 3 from three-point range and 8 of 9 at the free-throw line. He also had two steals and a block.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 23 and Rudy Gobert was a perfect 7 of 7 from the field with 18 points, but it wasn’t enough for Minnesota. Anthony Edwards, who scored 43 points in the Timberwolves’ Game 1 win and 44 in their Game 4 loss, managed just 18 on 5-of-15 shooting.

    New York Knicks’ Miles McBride (2) defends Indiana Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton (0) during the first half of Game 5 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
 
 
  photo  New York Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein, left, dunks the ball in front of Indiana Pacers’ Myles Turner during the first half of Game 5 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
 
 
  photo  New York Knicks’ Jalen Brunson, left, drives past Indiana Pacers’ Aaron Nesmith during the second half of Game 5 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. The Knicks won 121-91. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
 
 
  photo  Referee Scott Foster, left, separates Indiana Pacers’ Isaiah Jackson (22) and New York Knicks’ Isaiah Hartenstein (55) during the first half of Game 5 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
 
 
  photo  Indiana Pacers’ Andrew Nembhard (2) drives past New York Knicks’ Alec Burks (18) during the first half of Game 5 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
 
 
  photo  Indiana Pacers’ Aaron Nesmith (23) drives past New York Knicks’ Josh Hart and Precious Achiuwa (5) during the first half of Game 5 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
 
 
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