Home News Jalen Brunson shakes off injury scare to help Knicks to 2-0 series...

Jalen Brunson shakes off injury scare to help Knicks to 2-0 series lead over Pacers



The Knicks’ vibes were immaculate in the opening minutes of their Game 2, Eastern Conference semifinals matchup against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday.

Forward OG Anunoby came out aggressive on offense — arguably more aggressive than he had been to start a game all season — scoring 10 of the Knicks’ first 18 points. Madison Square Garden was in true playoff form after Jalen Brunson knocked down a pull-up 3-pointer, right in Tyrese Haliburton’s grill, to put the Knicks up 24-13 with 4:04 left in the first quarter.

But those positive vibes soon devolved into a state of profound concern. Oh, how quickly things went south for the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference when Brunson — who entered the night with four-straight 40-point games in these playoffs — left the court with 3:32 left in the first quarter.

The Knicks’ 130-121 defeat of Indiana in Game 2 was an emotional rollercoaster for everyone involved. Brunson’s unsettling injury was just the start.

Many inside the building feared the All-Star guard would not return. Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father and a Knicks assistant, was not on the bench and that clearly was not a great sign. And the Knicks were already paper-thin, playing without Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanovic and Mitchell Robinson Wednesday night.

Brunson was hip-checked by Indiana’s Andrew Nembhard early in the first quarter, and from that point on, he was seen grabbing at his groin area as he made his way up and down the court. Some assumed that collision is what led to his early exit. However, late in the second quarter, the Knicks announced that Brunson had a sore right foot and was questionable to return.

Fans were rightfully petrified. As Brunson goes, so does this Knicks team. This is a guy that has been in the same conversation as Michael Jordan in recent weeks. Indiana outscored New York 39 – 56 without Brunson on the court in the first half and went into the locker room at halftime up 10. The Pacers went 10-for-19 from deep through 24 minutes of action and had 12 second-chance points. Haliburton matched Anunoby with 22 points.

However, as the halftime festivities began to wind down, there was Brunson, slowly emerging from the tunnel with his chest out and head high. “MVP” chants began to reign down from the rafters as the guard began his warmup routine, knocking down one free throw after another, showing everyone inside Madison Square Garden that he was just fine.

Regardless of how severe Brunson’s injury actually was, it gave shades of Willis Reed, who was battling a torn right tensor muscle during the 1970 NBA Finals but emerged from the tunnel inside Madison Square Garden just minutes before Game 7. It injected his teammates with confidence and instilled doubt into Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers.

Fifty-four years later, Brunson’s return to the floor had a similar effect.

Brunson started the third quarter, and with him on the court, the Knicks outscored Indiana 36-18 to take a 99-91 lead into the final frame. But the third quarter wound up extracting a heavy toll. Anunoby took an awkward step while driving to the rim on a fastbreak late in the period. He left the game and did not return.

At the start of the fourth quarter, the Knicks announced that Anunoby had a sore left hamstring. His 28 points scored on Wednesday were the most he had in any game this postseason and he finished one point shy of tying a season high.

So, no Anunoby for New York down the stretch, but Brunson was not about to let Game 2 slip away. He was once again at his best when his team needed him the most, pouring in 14 points in the fourth quarter — including a floater over the outstretched arms of Indiana’s Pascal Siakam with 41.9 seconds left to put the Knicks up 126-118.

Despite missing the final minutes of the first quarter and all of the second, Brunson finished with a team-high 29 points in 32 minutes. The Knicks were plus-26 with him on the court on Wednesday. Haliburton scored a game-high 34 points for Indiana with six rebounds and nine assists.

Brunson’s latest display of mental and physical toughness gave the Knicks a 2-0 series lead over the Pacers. Two more and the team will punch its first ticket to the Eastern Conference Finals in 24 years.

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