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NBA playoffs: Jalen Brunson scores 43 points, Knicks outlast Pacers for 121–117 win in Game 1

NBA playoffs: Jalen Brunson scores 43 points, Knicks outlast Pacers for 121–117 win in Game 1

It's become a familiar playoff formula for the New York Knicks: Jalen Brunson scores 40 points (or more) and the Knicks win.

New York's star point guard scored 43 points, including 21 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Knicks to a 121–117 victory over the Indiana Pacers in Game 1 of their second-round NBA playoff series.

Brunson notched his fourth consecutive playoff game of 40 or more points. But Monday night's effort was tougher, with Indiana's Tyrese Haliburton, Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell sharing ball-handling duties, making it difficult for Brunson to get a break on defense.

Brunson and his teammates looked as if they might wear down earlier in the game, but they had plenty of energy by the end. Each of New York's starters scored in double figures. Donte DiVincenzo scored 25, shooting 5-for-9 from 3-point range (including the tiebreaker with 39 seconds left after a controversial kick ball call). Josh Hart added 24 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists while playing all 48 minutes.

Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau rode his starters hard, using only three bench players (who contributed three points) and Indiana capitalized with 46 points from their reserves.

The Pacers' depth allowed them to maintain a fast pace throughout the game, even after made baskets, and the Knicks tired out trying to keep up. (Though Hart certainly tried.) That was most evident in the second quarter when the Pacers outscored New York, 31–22. And the Knicks only got to 22 due to Isaiah Hartenstein hitting a half-court 3-pointer at the buzzer.

The Knicks roared back in the third quarter, eventually taking a 73–68 lead, but again tired out which led to a 10–0 Pacers run and a 87–82 lead going into the fourth. Yet Brunson, DiVincenzo and Hart seemingly wouldn't let New York lose, despite Indiana's best efforts.

"That's where we are. That's where we've been the entire season," Thibodeau said to reporters after the game. "We've been shorthanded the whole season. This team has the belief it can win. Whatever you have, give it to the team."

Having a great game on the Madison Square Garden stage would've been a great story for Haliburton in his breakout season. Maybe that will still happen in this series. But he only scored six points in a marquee matchup with Brunson.

Myles Turner led the Pacers with 23 points, followed by 19 from Pascal Siakam (with six rebounds and five assists) and 18 by McConnell.

The scoring was spread throughout the Pacers lineup, thanks in part to Haliburton's playmaking. The All-Star point guard led the NBA with 10.9 assists per game during the regular season and he had eight Monday night, helping set up reserves Obi Toppin and Isaiah Jackson for easy baskets.

Maybe Haliburton was always going to lose the one-on-one showdown. To be fair, he struggled with back spasms going back to the Pacers' first-round series with the Milwaukee Bucks and was listed as questionable coming into Game 1.

However, Brunson has been the story of the Eastern Conference playoffs thus far. Over the past five games, he's put up superstar numbers. Brunson has scored 210 points during that span, the most in a five-game stretch since Michael Jordan in 1993, according to ESPN.

Game 2 of the Pacers-Knicks series is scheduled for Wednesday. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. ET with the broadcast on TNT.

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