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Knicks attempting to close 2nd playoff series on the road in Game 6 vs Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS — The Knicks did it before.

They can do it again.

The Knicks marched onto Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center floors in a pivotal Game 6 in their first-round playoff matchup against the 76ers and closed both the series and 2023 MVP Joel Embiid on his team’s own home floor.

Several bodies short, those same Knicks now have an opportunity to do the same, this time at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse. This time in the second round, where an Indiana Pacers team trailing the series, 3-2, will face elimination in front of their home fans in Game 6 on Friday.

“The defense, the rebounding, the low turnovers are key in any game, but last game has nothing to do with this game,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said after practice at the team’s Tarrytown training facility on Thursday. “So we have to understand that and we’ve got to be ready to go on the road. And we have to play tough for 48 minutes. So we know how talented of a team they are.”

But it won’t come easy, especially at an arena the Knicks have yet to secure a victory in this series.

The Knicks are 0-2 at Indiana in the second round including an embarrassing 32-point loss in a Game 4 blowout where they trailed as many as 43 points.

“Energy. I think that’s the biggest thing: Energy and physicality,” said Knicks forward Josh Hart. “The last time we were in that building, we got our butts kicked. We got blown out by 30. We didn’t embody what Thibs is, what this team is, what this city is, and it was embarrassing.

“So Game 6, we have to come out with energy, with physicality and just a sense out toughness and resilience.”

The Knicks lost Game 4 in Indiana courtesy of a 34-14 first quarter they never recovered from.

Slow starts have been one of few low lights in a season where the injury-stricken Knicks secured the Eastern Conference’s No. 2 seed.

“Is it fair to say that [we need to start games better?] Yeah. Do we do a good job of it? No,” said Hart. “So that’s definitely something we’ve struggled with this year in terms of giving up first efforts a lot of times.  I think only one game of the Philly series, we really started the first quarter off strong with a lead. So that’s something that we’ve gotta make sure — even last game, they started off 12-4.

Hart said a strong start is crucial, but not in an effort to quell the Pacers’ home-court advantage.

“Not anything to keep their crowd out of it or anything like that,” he said. “We just have to do that for ourselves.”

Still, the Knicks have an opportunity to make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2000, and they’ve done it with three-time All-Star Julius Randle (dislocated shoulder) sitting out since Jan. 27.

Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic have also suffered season ending injuries.

“I think the important thing is not to get lost in all the hyperbole, distracted and lock into winning the game,” said Thibodeau. “Just focus on the task at hand which is to win the game. So dint get sidetracked, just lock in and that’s the one thing that I think this team has done well. So put the necessary work that goes into winning into it, and don’t get lost. Stay focused.”


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