‘Trying to be tough’: Illegal act sparks fury as Knicks on brink of wild 24-year first — NBA Wrap

    Jalen Brunson was back to his best on Tuesday as the New York Knicks dominated the Indiana Pacers 121-91 to take a 3-2 lead in their Eastern Conference semi-final Game 5.

    Victory on Friday night in Indianapolis would see the Knicks advance to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time in 24 years.

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    After losing Game 4 by 32 points, it was an emphatic response from the Knicks, with Brunson piling up 44 points with seven assists and four rebounds.

    “He’s willing to share everything with his teammates, and to me, that is the best part of him,” said Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau.

    “His play is spectacular but who he is as a teammate, as a leader, it makes us that. Big shot after big shot,” added the Knicks coach.

    The Knicks destroyed Indiana in the paint, with Isaiah Hartenstein leading the way with 17 rebounds (12 offensive) while Josh Hart had 11 rebounds (nine defensive).

    Brunson’s impact had been limited in the past two games in the series, with concerns that his heavy workload and a foot injury may have slowed him down.

    But there were no signs of fatigue in his prolific display as he reached the 40 mark for the fifth time this post-season.

    Brunson delivered for the Knicks with an impressive 44 points. (Photo by Sarah Stier / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)Source: AFP

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    Brunson, who had only 18 points in Sunday’s loss, shot 18 for 35 and put up 28 points in the first half — a playoff record for the Knicks.

    It was his seven straight points, including a three-pointer to open up a 20-point lead at 106-86 that made sure of the victory.

    Tempers also threatened to boil over early in the second quarter after Donte DiVincenzo drew an offensive foul from Indiana’s Isaiah Jackson.

    Less than a minute into the second, the Pacers’ T.J. McConnell was setting up a play as Jackson tried to set a screen, which ended up catching DiVincenzo up high and knocking him down to the floor.

    Isaiah Hartenstein took exception to what Jackson — who was called for the illegal pick — did, and immediately got into his face.

    Myles Turner had to be held back as the Pacers and Knicks’ clash got feisty. (Photo by Sarah Stier / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)Source: AFP

    Hartenstein, even as teammate Alec Burks tried to intervene, put a hand on Jackson’s beard and neck and attempted to shove him away before officials separated the two teams.

    After all was said and done, Hartenstein, Burks and Jackson were all given technical fouls, which gave Indiana one free throw.

    Speaking after the game, DiVincenzo ripped the Pacers for trying to be something they weren’t.

    “They were trying to be tough guys,” DiVincenzo told reporters in the locker room.

    “That’s not their identity … Nobody’s gonna fight in the NBA. Take the foul, keep it moving.

    “You’re not a tough guy, just keep it moving.”

    The Pacers got off to a strong start and led 25-20 before the Knicks put together an 11-0 run to end the first quarter up 38-32.

    By halftime, it was 69-54 and New York were in no mood to let the lead slip.

    Thibodeau said he expected the response to the blowout defeat from his team. “They’ve shown that all year, that’s who they are. We still need one more win so we can’t be too excited about it,” he said.

    Pascal Siakam led Indiana scoring with 22 points.

    Later on Tuesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves face defending champions the Denver Nuggets in Game 5 of their Western Conference semi-final, which stands at 2-2.

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