The future remains bright for Knicks, though pain of season-ending Game 7 loss lingers

Knicks Jalen Brunson
New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) dribbles during the first half of Game 7 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in New York. The Pacers won 130-109. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

For every Knicks fans, Sunday’s Game 7 was a nightmare scenario where Murphy’s Law reigned supreme: Everything that could have possibly gone wrong, went wrong.

The Indiana Pacers didn’t seem to miss a shot; they had their best postseason shooting performance in franchise history to clobber the Knicks 130-109, shooting a remarkable 67% from the floor.

They say basketball is a make-or-miss game, but all the Pacers seemed to do on Sunday was make shot after shot to stave off any chance of a Knicks comeback in the second half.

A postseason riddled with injuries also finally caught up to the Knicks lineup. OG Anunoby and Josh Hart played through the pain but weren’t 100%. They missed the presence of Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic, whose season ended long before the final buzzer sounded Sunday. 

Then they lost Jalen Brunson to a fractured hand while trying to block a fast-break layup in the second half on Sunday. That proved to be the final nail in the Knicks’ coffin.

It was Brunson who had constantly stepped up and responded in the face of adversity. Brunson’s injury perfectly encapsulated the Knicks season as New York fought for all 48 minutes against Indiana, yet in the end the injuries were far too much to overcome and reach their full potential. 

“I’m disappointed in the sense that we’re not going to play anymore,” said Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau. “But, they were a great group to be around and they gave everything they had.”

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau
New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau looks on during the second half of Game 7 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series against the Indiana Pacers, Sunday, May 19, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Julia Nikhinson)

Throughout the game, New York made numerous efforts to erase an early 22-point first-half deficit, yet anytime they got within single digits, Indiana would respond with a run of their own.

“They made shots, they’re a very good offensive team,” said Thibodeau talking about the barrage of Pacer offense. “You have to challenge their shots and we probably didn’t challenge them as well as we should have. But when you’re short-handed like we have been we know we have to play with great intensity all the time to give ourselves a chance to win.”

“It was a battle all year and there was nothing left to give at the end,” said Thibodeau.

Now, the Knicks have nothing left to do but turn their attention to the offseason and regroup for next season. While some New York fans may be disappointed and feel like they have let a golden opportunity slip away, the future of this team is as bright as ever. 

Thibodeau has established a winning culture with a roster of like-minded players. An uncontrollable variable in any team’s season is injuries, and it is safe to say the injuries greatly impacted the ceiling of this Knicks team. 

Advancing to the second round of the playoffs, to begin with, is a testament to the Knicks as a whole and their roster construction. There are only a handful of teams in the league who would have managed to win a playoff series without two of their starting five and New York excelled beyond that, nearly punching their ticket to the conference finals with a banged-up Anunoby who missed time during the series due to injuries. 

While in a vacuum this will be seen as a fumbled opportunity to reach the first conference finals for the franchise since 2000, the bigger picture says something much more important. This is a Knicks team that has found their star player in Brunson and has found a supporting cast, that when healthy, can compete with anybody in the league night in and night out. This will not be the last you hear of this New York team, they are built for the long haul. 

“I love the group,” said Thibodeau. “As a coach, you couldn’t ask for a better group.”