Knicks utterly embarrassed by Pacers in lethargic Game 4 loss to tie series

May 15, 2024 in Sports

The Knicks absorbed a knockdown blow early and never got up.

Tom Thibodeau’s squad was a disaster in the opening quarter, a lethargic, misfiring mess before rolling over in a Mother’s Day Massacre administered by the Pacers, 121-89, who evened the Eastern Conference semis series at 2-2.

Jalen Brunson was again mired in inefficiency with just 18 points on 6-for-17 shooting, struggling to get in any rhythm against Aaron Nesmith and Indiana’s hounding/disciplined defense.

The point guard and his crew were outworked and exhausted while uncharacteristically losing the energy and rebounding battles.

Their shorthanded roster and heavy starters’ minutes finally seemed to catch up with the Knicks, including Josh Hart, who took responsibility for the flatlined performance.

“It’s the playoffs. You gotta find it. That’s something that we didn’t do today,” said Hart, who played just 24 minutes and sat the entire fourth quarter because of the blowout. “I put that on my shoulders, someone who brings energy, brings hustle, the kinda things I didn’t do today.

“It’s time to get better. It’s rest and recovery. But mentally, we gotta make sure we’re prepared to do everything we need to do to get a win on Tuesday.”

Miles McBride said the players discussed the loss and the need to improve in the postgame locker room.

“About how we’re going to fix this, so we’ll bounce back a lot better,” McBride said. “I mean this locker room has dealt with a lot this year. I know those guys are going to set the tone and they already have.”

The Knicks now have a day to recover before the swing game, which represents the biggest contest of their season thus far.

And the latest injury update suggests it will happen without OG Anunoby, who, according to Tom Thibodeau, hasn’t started running yet because of his strained hamstring.

“Whether you lose by 1 or you lose by 30, it’s a loss,” Thibodeau said. “So you have to respond the right way.

“We’re disappointed. And the thing is we can’t have a hangover, we have to fix it and we have to come with a will and a determination to respond to what happened.”

Without Anunoby on Sunday, the Knicks were stomped from tipoff and let go of the rope as Tyrese Haliburton went off for 20 points in just 27 minutes.

Even Thibodeau, famously hesitant to pull his starters in garbage time, raised the white flag in the third quarter by inserting Shake Milton and DaQuan Jeffries.

“Once we got to a certain point it just made sense to do what we did,” Thibodeau said.

The starters, after all, he said looked tired.

Their jump shots were short, particularly from Brunson, who has also been navigating a sore foot since Game 2.

The Knicks shot just 7-for-37 on 3-pointers (18.9 percent). The Villanova trio went a combined 1-for-13 from deep.

“We can talk about fresher legs, and you can give us all the pity that we want: Yeah we’re shorthanded, but that doesn’t matter right now,” Brunson said. “We have what we have and we need to go forward with that. So there is no, ‘We’re shorthanded.’ There is no excuse. There’s no excuse whatsoever. If we lose, we lose. That’s what that was.”

And the first quarter set the tone. The Knicks trailed by 23 after just 10 ½ minutes amid awful shooting and Haliburton getting hot.

Some of the plays were just inexplicably sloppy for a team typically disciplined.

At one point, Jericho Sims, the Knicks’ worst ball-handler, was left to bring up the rock under the Pacers press.


Ninety seconds later, Hart threw an inbounds pass to nobody in particular.


But the biggest problem was Brunson. He couldn’t create his normal separation, perhaps still bothered by that sore foot even though he wasn’t listed on the injury report.

Brunson shot 0-for-5 in the opening quarter, and the Knicks never recovered.

They came into Indy and dropped two straight, the second in embarrassing fashion.

Now they have to win at home.

“We have to really get back to playing our basketball, coming back to playing for the fans like that,” Hartenstein said. “Because the way we played, especially today, was not respectful to the fans and how they support us.”