Jalen Brunson Shakes Off Injury To Help New York Knicks To 2-0 Series Lead Over Indiana Pacers

Brunson drives to the basket during the game. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Sam Joseph, CNN

(CNN) — Fueled by one of this season’s most prolific playoff performers, the No. 2 seed New York Knicks stormed back from a double-digit halftime deficit to beat the Indiana Pacers 130-121 in Game 2 of their second-round series.

All-Star point guard Jalen Brunson scored 24 of his team-high 29 points in the second half after leaving the game injured in the first quarter, hitting multiple clutch shots down the stretch in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

New York defeated the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the postseason and has now built a healthy 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

The atmosphere was particularly raucous in the Garden, with fans directing loud profanity-laced chants towards Pacers legend Reggie Miller, who has a fractious history with Knicks supporters and was courtside as part of the TNT Sports commentary crew.

The Knicks – already missing Julius Randle, Bojan Bogdanović and Mitchell Robinson due to season-ending injuries – would have been fearing the worst when Brunson was subbed out just over eight minutes into the game with an apparent foot injury and were left feeling the effects of his absence as the Pacers stretched their lead to 10 points by the end of the first half.

However, Brunson allayed concerns when he emerged for the second-half shootaround and was showered with ‘MVP’ chants from the adoring home crowd.

“This place has been nothing but special to me, so I appreciate everything that they do,” an appreciative Brunson told reporters. “I just knew that I had to get my mind in the right place to figure out how I was going to attack the second half.”

“I mean, he’s a warrior. That’s all I got,” Knicks wing Donte DiVincenzo said of Brunson postgame. “There was no doubt in my mind that he’ll be back. All season long, no matter what is thrown at him, injury bug or whatever, he always bounces back. And we knew the severity of the game and everything, so we knew, everybody had confidence he was coming back.”

Brunson’s return coincided with a dominant third quarter in New York’s favor, who outscored the Pacers by 18 points across the period.

Every Knicks starter scored in double figures, with DiVincenzo and OG Anunoby adding 28 apiece. Josh Hart had 19 points, 15 rebounds and seven assists, playing every single minute of the contest for the fourth time this postseason. He is averaging 46.8 minutes per game in the playoffs, which leads the league.

Indiana was led by All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton – who bounced back from a poor Game 1 – racking up 34 points, nine assists and three steals in the losing effort, while former Knick Obi Toppin added 20 points off the bench.

The sixth-seeded Pacers upset the Milwaukee Bucks in six games in the first round, though the No. 3 seed played the entire series without two-time MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

There was a contentious moment late in the fourth quarter when the game was whistled dead and Knicks big man Isaiah Hartenstein appeared to be penalized for a double dribble, though after discussion, the officials ruled that it was an inadvertent whistle and possession was returned to New York.

Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle was infuriated by the decision and was eventually ejected from the game.

“I’m always talking to our guys about not making it about the officials, but we deserve a fair shot,” he said after the game. “There’s not a consistent balance and that’s disappointing.

“Small-market teams deserve an equal shot. They deserve a fair shot no matter where they are playing.”

The series heads to Indianapolis for Game 3 on Friday.

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