NBA playoffs: Jalen Brunson dominates Pacers again to put Knicks on verge of conference finals

Jalen Brunson has done it again, and the New York Knicks are on the brink of the Eastern Conference finals.

Brunson put on another scoring clinic at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night to lead the Knicks to a 121-91 win over the Indiana Pacers. The win secured a 3-2 series lead and put the Knicks a victory away from their first conference finals appearance since 2000.

The Knicks turned up the heat with a 38-32 advantage in the first quarter and never looked back. Brunson scored seemingly at will en route to 28 first-half points.

He finished the game with 44 points, seven assists and four rebounds. He shot 18 of 35 from the field and 2 of 6 from 3. The performance marked his fifth game with 40 points or more in these playoffs, the most in a single postseason since LeBron James in 2018. He's now averaging 33.9 points per game in the postseason.

New York was dominant with Brunson on the floor. When he rested in the second quarter, the Pacers cut their 54-40 deficit to 56-47. When he returned, the Knicks went on a 9-0 run to extend the lead back to 65-47, prompting a Pacers timeout. The Knicks went into halftime with a 69-54 lead and a chance to run away with the game early in third quarter.

Jalen Brunson put on another scintillating performance at Madison Square Garden. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
Jalen Brunson put on another scintillating performance at Madison Square Garden. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Instead, Pacers center Myles Turner opened Indiana's second-half scoring with three unanswered 3-pointers to cut the New York lead to 70-63. It just delayed the inevitable.

Brunson scored his first bucket of the half on a 3-pointer with 6:36 remaining as New York extended its lead to 80-64. A Donte DiVincenzo putback slam extended the lead again to 86-64 for the Knicks' largest advantage in the series.

The Pacers had one last gasp and cut the lead again, this time to 12 points in the fourth quarter. But Brunson answered one more time.

He responded with seven straight points in a 9-0 Knicks run to once again thwart a Pacers comeback effort. His 40th point arrived on an acrobatic scoop at the rim as four Pacers defenders converged on him.

After that, the Pacers were out of runs. The MSG crowd — sniffing New York's first conference finals since Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson — serenaded Brunson with an MVP chant.

With New York leading 114-90, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle waved the white flag and emptied the Indiana bench. Brunson took his own well-deserved rest on the sideline.

While Brunson was the star, he wasn't alone Tuesday night. Led by Isaiah Hartenstein, the Knicks put on a rebounding clinic. New York secured a 53-29 advantage on the glass and a 20-5 edge in offensive rebounds.

Hartenstein led the way with 17 rebounds, 12 of them on offense to repeatedly set New York up with second chances. Josh Hart continued his work on the boards from the wing in an 18-point, 11-rebound effort. It marked the eighth time in 11 playoff games the 6-foot-4 guard has secured double-digit rebounds.

Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton, meanwhile, struggled again. He was hesitant on offense and finished with 13 points, five assists and two steals while shooting 5 of 9 from the field, recalling his six-point effort in Indiana's Game 1 loss.

Pascal Siakam led Indiana with 22 points, eight rebounds and two assists. Turner finished with 16 points, five rebounds and two blocks.

The series shifts back to Indiana for Game 6 on Friday, where the Pacers will look to send the series back to MSG for a winner-take-all Game 7.