BROKEN: Injury-riddled Knicks lose Brunson to hand fracture, trounced by Pacers in Game 7 loss

The Knicks’ season ended in a 130-109 Game 7 loss to the Pacers at MSG Sunday.
AP Photo

Game 7 was the straw that broke the Knicks season’s back — as they not only lost their best player to a fractured hand, but also had their postseason run ended by a hot-shooting Indiana Pacers in a 130-109 loss in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

Already without Julius Randle (shoulder), Mitchell Robinson (ankle) and Bojan Bogdanović (foot), the Knicks lost OG Anunoby to injury less than five minutes into the first quarter after he put up five points. He tried to play through a hamstring strain suffered in Game 4’s win, but spent much of his time on the floor hobbling around.

Then Knicks star Jalen Brunson suffered a fractured hand in the third quarter, which knocked him out for the remainder of the game.

With Josh Hart having played through an abdominal strain that knocked him out for much of Game 6, the Knicks were snakebit with the injury bug, both before and throughout this series. 

Knicks star Jalen Brunson suffered a fractured hand in the third quarter. AP Photo

The Pacers dominated on the floor, shooting 67.1% on the floor, setting a record for the highest team shooting percentage in NBA playoff history. The team put up 70 points in the first half alone, shooting 76%, the highest by any team in the first half in 25 postseasons. The 39 points that the Pacers scored in the first marked the most by any team in the first quarter of a Game 7 in NBA history. 

“We started slow, and [the Pistons] a good offensive team,” Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau said after the loss. “We made a run in the third, and then we fell short. I thought the guys gave everything they had, and that’s all I can ask.”

Tyrese Haliburton gave Knicks fans flashbacks to Reggie Miller in the 1990s. Haliburton led the Pacers in scoring with 26 points, including 16 in the first half alone. Like Miller, Haliburton was enjoying himself as a villain in New York, jawing with fans throughout the game. Six different Pacers; Haliburton, Pascal Siakam (20), Andrew Nembhard (20), Aaron Nesmith (19), Myles Turner (17) and T.J. McConnell (12), all scored double-digit points.

Donte DiVincenzo led the Knicks with 39 points. Coming off the bench, Alec Burks put up 26 points. Brunson had 17 points in 29 minutes.

The Knicks were able to rally early in the third quarter, cutting a 15-point deficit to just six. However, the Pacers counterpunched with run of their own, extending the lead to as much as 19, thanks in large part to a 9-0 run.

Even after overcoming so many injuries that knocked out many key contributors to the team, Brunson said he still did not view the season as a success.

“Did we win a championship? Did we get close? That’s my mindset,” Brunson said. “There’s pros and cons to how I played [in the playoffs], I played well individually at some points in time during the playoffs, but I didn’t play well enough to help my team move forward.”

As the Pacers prepare to face off against the heavily-favored Boston Celtics Tuesday, the Knicks will begin a critical offseason.

The Knicks’ most notable pending unrestricted free agents are big man Isaiah Hartenstein and Alec Burks. Still, after finishing second in the Eastern Conference with a 50-32 record, there is something surrounding the Knicks that has been missing for a long time: hope. Time will tell how the team will look to improve on the court through trades and free agency.

Despite being defeated, the Knicks received a standing ovation in the game’s final seconds — a token of appreciation from a loyal fanbase that enjoyed one of the most memorable playoff runs in team history.

“This team is special in a way that I really can’t explain,” Brunson said. The way we just fought, the way we didn’t use excuses. And we just kept finding ways to the best of our abilities. I love this group of guys. Our mindset as a group is we’re strong. I’m proud of what we were able to do this year.”

“You hate to see all the injuries,” Thibodeau said. “Josh [Hart] and OG [Anunoby] just tried to give us whatever they had. It was hit after hit, but the guys responded all year long. As a coach, the only thing you can ask for is the players to put forth their best effort. What goes along with that is piece of mind in knowing that you did your best. A lot of teams I think would’ve folded [after all the injuries], but these guys didn’t do that.”