Indiana Pacers force NBA Playoff Game 7 against New York Knicks


The ghosts of 1990s NBA ball roam the halls of Madison Square Garden. It's a powerful and unforgettable era of the NBA.

Patrick Ewing. John Starks. Latrell Sprewell. Larry Johnson. Allan Houston. Greg Anthony. Mark Jackson. Reggie Miller. Pat Riley. Jeff Van Gundy. Larry Brown. Larry Bird. Also Mike Breen, who was the radio voice and then the TV play-by-play guy for the Knicks. Spike Lee. Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau was an assistant for the Knicks.

The last Game 7 at the Garden was in 1995 — the New York Knicks vs. the Indiana Pacers — and the next game at the Garden will feature the same teams on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

Another Game 7 in the 2024 playoffs? Secure. To borrow Breen’s catchphrase: “Bang!”

That's possible because Indiana beat New York 116-103 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinal series on Friday night.

The Pacers controlled the game and were never in danger of losing. Pascal Siakam led the Pacers with 25 points, seven rebounds and five assists, and Tyrese Haliburton had 15 points, nine assists, six rebounds and two blocks. Indiana shot 53.8% from the field and outscored New York 62-38.

There isn't much more to say about the game. It wasn't the Knicks' night.

The home team has won every game in the series and is 112-37 in Game 7. But the Knicks were the home team against the Pacers in 1995 and lost, with Miller scoring 29 points. With one second left in the fourth quarter, Ewing missed a finger throw. In 1994, the Knicks defeated the Pacers in Game 7 at the Garden to reach the NBA Finals. There is history between the two teams.

There are numerous storylines for the series finale, starting with the Knicks trying to get to the conference finals for the first time since 2000 and the Pacers trying to get there for the first time since 2014.

The Knicks are banged up, weakened by injuries and missing four rotation players – starters Julius Randle and OG Anunoby and reserves Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic. Josh Hart is also injured; he seems to have a problem with his abdominal muscles. In Game 6, he clutched his left abdominal area several times.

Thibodeau is a “next man up” proselytizer. The problem is that he's running out of men.

“That's what you play for,” Thibodeau said. “You love to compete. … Whatever it is we're facing, we can overcome it. Just keep fighting.”

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson's star status has only grown in the playoffs with his flurry of 30-point games, and even more responsibility falls to him in Game 7, especially with Hart at less than 100%. But he also needs help.

The pressure on the second-seeded Knicks is greater than the sixth-seeded Pacers. But that doesn't diminish the importance of reaching the conference finals for a young, offensive-minded team under Indiana coach Rick Carlisle. Haliburton developed into an All-NBA guard, and it looks like Siakam is a part of Indiana's future. Getting to the conference finals – and maybe even the finals – will further the Pacers' development.

The Pacers and Knicks in a Sunday afternoon game at the Garden in May. Sign me up. The energy generated by the crowds around Penn Station and Madison Square Garden is a uniquely New York experience, ghosts and all.

Anna Harden

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