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How Caitlin Clark’s home debut in WNBA is giving the Knicks an assist vs. the Pacers

Indiana’s newest basketball superstar is giving an assist to the Knicks in their hard-fought playoff series against the Pacers.

Indirectly, that is.

The break between Tuesday’s Game 5 at Madison Square Garden and Friday’s Game 6 in Indianapolis is a day longer than the gap between any other games in the second-round series.

That’s because Gainbridge Fieldhouse — where the Pacers play their home games — is already booked for the much-hyped home debut of Indiana Fever phenom Caitlin Clark.

“Therefore, the Pacers couldn’t play Game 6 at home on Thursday, when they originally would have played,” ESPN’s Tim Bontemps said on the “Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective” podcast.

An extra day of rest figures to benefit the Knicks, who have been forced to lean heavily on their starters to play major minutes after losing Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanović, Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby to injuries.

Josh Hart played at least 42 minutes in each of the Knicks’ first nine playoff games — and didn’t leave the court in four of them — before resting for 24 minutes in Sunday’s 121-89 loss in Game 4 that evened the series, 2-2.

Donte DiVincenzo played 48 minutes in the Knicks’ decisive Game 6 victory over the 76ers in the first round and 44 minutes in each of the first three games against the Pacers. He played 32 minutes in the lopsided Game 4.

Jalen Brunson played at least 38 minutes in eight of the Knicks’ first 10 playoff games. The only exceptions were Game 2 against Indiana, when he missed more than a quarter with a right foot injury, and Game 4, when he sat out the final quarter with the score out of hand.

And Anunoby, the lockdown defender who scored 28 points in 28 minutes in Game 2 against Indiana, was ruled out of his third consecutive game Friday with an injured left hamstring.

“Yeah, we’re shorthanded, but that doesn’t matter right now,” Brunson said after Game 4. “We have what we have right now and we need to go forward with that. There is no, ‘We’re shorthanded.’ There is no excuse.”

Brunson, who scored at least 39 points in each of the five games before injuring his foot, left 10 jumpers short in Games 3 and 4, according to ESPN. His average jump height of 1.44 feet was about two inches shorter than the 1.67 feet he averaged in the regular season.

Randle (shoulder) and Bogdanović (foot and wrist) have already been ruled out for the year, while Robinson is set to be re-evaluated in six-to-eight weeks after undergoing his second ankle surgery of the season. Their absences have caused coach Tom Thibodeau to give increased playing time to reserves such as Alec Burks and Precious Achiuwa

The Knicks’ first-round series featured multiple two-day breaks. Their only extra rest in round two comes courtesy of Clark, whom the Fever drafted first overall in last month’s WNBA Draft.

Clark, 22, set the NCAA’s all-time scoring record during her four seasons at Iowa and twice led the Hawkeyes to the national championship game.

Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle and star Tyrese Haliburton greeted the sharp-shooting guard at her introductory press conference last month, and Clark was seen cheering on Indiana during its Game 3 win against the Knicks.

The Fever are scheduled to face the Liberty on Thursday night.


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