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Knicks Notebook: Alec Burks the unlikely hero in Game 3 loss to Pacers



INDIANAPOLIS — Not all heroes wear capes.

In this case, the hero mostly wears warmups.

Backup guard Alec Burks did not play in the Knicks’ entire first-round playoff series against the Philadelphia 76ers, then logged just 44 seconds of action in Game 2 of the second-round series against the Indiana Pacers.

His workload represented less than 1% of the total minutes allocated through the Knicks’ first eight playoff games.

Yet with OG Anunoby missing Game 3 at the Gainbridge Fieldhouse on Friday due to a strained hamstring, head coach Tom Thibodeau had no choice but to dig deeper into his rotation.

The streaky-shooting Burks might not be there when you call him, but he’s there when you need him.

“It was big,” starting center Isaiah Hartenstein said of Burks’ Game 3 performance. “I think him coming in and not playing for that long, staying ready, I think him mentally being ready, mentally giving us a spark, our offense, was big for us.”

Burks played the entire second quarter and scored 14 points on a perfect four-of-four shooting from the field. His first basket was a foul line pull-up jump shot over backup Pacers big man Isaiah Jackson.

A minute and a half later with 8:05 left in the second period, he got an and-one floater to fall over Indiana’s starting center Myles Turner.

And with 4:08 left until halftime and the game tied at 46, he waved Josh Hart away before drilling a pull-up three over Turner’s outstretched arm to give the Knicks a first-half lead.

Burks made one more triple with 10 seconds left in the first half to cut a six-point deficit down to just three.

“I think he’s just a true professional. It doesn’t matter. Whenever his number is called he’s ready to go,” said starting Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo. “When his number is not called, I think the thing you can talk about the most with him is he’s an amazing teammate, locker room guy. I know personally when my confidence was up and down last series he’s the one who picked me up. To see him come in and be productive for us tonight was huge.”

The Knicks outscored the Pacers by 12 points in his first 10 minutes on the floor. Burks did not score in the second half.

“I thought he responded really well,” said Thibodeau. “I thought those minutes were really good.”

GRABBING REBOUNDS

The Pacers out-rebounded the Knicks, 42-41, but won on the offensive glass, 13-10, including a 5-3 advantage in the fourth quarter. The Pacers grabbed three offensive rebounds in the final 1:35 of regulation, including the offensive board leading to Andrew Nembhard’s game-winning three.

“I think [rebounding is] what we pride ourselves on, the identity for us,” said DiVincenzo. “We knew that was going to be a point of emphasis for them coming into the game. We’ll go back, look at the film and see how we can clean up a few things. Ultimately just compete harder and I think it goes a different way for us.”

DIVINCENZO’S CAREER HIGH

DiVincenzo scored a playoff career-high 35 points and hit seven threes on 11 attempts.

“We took an L. That’s how I viewed it,” he said after the game. “It doesn’t mean anything. Going into the next game, I’ve gotta be better in other categories. And that’s what I’m gonna watch.”

With Jalen Brunson playing on an injured right foot, DiVincenzo increased his scoring, though he said that wasn’t his intention entering Game 3.

“I think [Jalen] said it before: if he’s going to play, he’s fine,” DiVincenzo said after the loss. “My mindset is not, ‘oh he’s questionable, he might be banged up, we need to do x, y, z.’ Every game just have the mindset of being aggressive, just taking what the defense gives you. And tonight from the three-point line, it was falling. Just trying to be aggressive to make them react. That’s all. That’s all my mindset was.”

SECURING WINS DESPITE INJURIES

The Knicks had a nine-point lead in the third quarter before the Pacers’ late-game comeback turned the series with a victory on Friday. They built their advantage with four key players out due to injury, building some confidence in their ability to secure another win if Anunoby (hamstring) is out longer than expected.

“We’re right there. We’re right there. We can’t harp on submitting [missed] calls [to the league office] or doing anything like that,” DiVincenzo said. “We could be better. And whoever’s out there, whoever is out on the floor, you can’t let it fall into the 50-50 calls. We had a nine or 10-point lead, something like that. I think collectively we just have to be better. But like I said this morning, whatever five is on the court, we’re going to [try to] win the game every single time we step out on the court. That’s my mindset.”

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