By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
Who’s stopping the Knicks?
Entering their Eastern Conference showdown against the Indiana Pacers with eight straight victories, the New York Knicks continued to roll after pulling off a come-from-behind victory, 109-105, to equalize the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Clippers for the current NBA season’s longest winning streak last February 2, 2024.
Still missing the services of the injured Julius Randle and OG Anunoby, the Knicks faced difficulties in keeping up with Indiana’s fast-paced offensive actions.
As a result, New Tork trailed by as much as 15 points in the first half and were in deep trouble heading into the last two quarters.
With their winning streak in danger, newly-named NBA All-Star Jalen Brunson answered the call for the Knicks and just went unconscious in the second half.
Brunson was in the zone in the last two quarters and dropped big shot after big shot in the most crucial stretch of the final frame.
The hefty leftie capped off his dominant performance with 40 big points built from an efficient 15/30 shooting from the field.
Brunson also went to the charity stripe 11 times and converted nine shots. Despite a rough shooting from the three-point line, the star floor general made it up in the perimeter and the paint after draining 14 attempts.
The Knicks officially stole the lead in the 5:37 mark of the fourth quarter after Brunson converted a leaning floater against the defense of Buddy Hield.
Despite Indiana retaking the advantage after a Jalen Smith slam dunk, 99-100, Brunson continued his heroics after helping the Knicks grab another lead change off a foul-counted floater in the lane, 101-100.
New York then capitalized on Indiana’s cold offensive stretch in the last 1:30 of the game. Aside from their point-blank layup misses, the Knicks also put up a massive defensive performance that locked down the Pacers’ perimeter.
Knocking down the two crucial shots that helped New York extend their lead to five were Donte DiVincenzo and Precious Achiuwa, in the last minute of the intense ball game.
DiVincenzo backstopped Brunson with 20 points, three assists, two rebounds, and two steals while Achiuwa chipped in 12 points, 16 rebounds, four steals, and two blocks.
Meanwhile, Indiana was led by Smith who contributed 20 points, nine rebounds, two steals, and two blocks while Pascal Siakam added 18 points and seven boards.
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana’s superstar point guard, was only limited to 21 minutes of playing time and produced 15 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two blocks.