Brunson scores 40 after earning All-Star nod to lead Knicks past Pacers 109-105 for 9th straight win

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New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson reacts after scoring during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers, Thursday, Feb. 1, 2024, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Knicks won 109-105. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK – Maybe Jalen Brunson was just bothered by the pain in his left eye that had been hit a few minutes earlier.

Or maybe there were just too many emotions on the night he earned his first All-Star nod.

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But after scoring 40 points in the New York Knicks' 109-105 victory over the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night, Brunson couldn't get the words out when asked on the court what the night meant to him as “MVP! MVP!” chants rained down from around Madison Square Garden.

“It was really cool, the whole experience, the night, how we won, obviously what happened before the game,” Brunson said later. “You always work for certain moments, but you never know how to react once they happen, so it was special.”

Brunson shook off his eye injury to make the go-ahead basket with 1:46 remaining as the Knicks won their ninth straight.

Brunson scored 11 in the fourth quarter to rally the Knicks in a game they trailed by 15 points. They had surged back to take the lead, then fell behind 100-99 when Brunson crashed into Andrew Nembhard in the backcourt, laying on the court and holding his face as Jalen Smith picked the loose ball for an uncontested basket.

But with this left eye appearing swollen, Brunson drove into the lane on the next possession and scored while being fouled,

“You just love his competitiveness and he never goes away,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said.

Donte DiVincenzo and Precious Achiuwa followed with baskets to make it 105-100.

DiVincenzo scored 20 points and Deuce McBride had 16. Isaiah Hartenstein had 12 points and 19 rebounds, and Achiuwa finished with 12 points and 16 boards for the Knicks, who missed 20 of 24 3-pointers through three quarters but made up for it by outrebounding the Pacers 60-44 and scoring 25 second-chance points.

“We got bullied on the glass and it’s disappointing because we’re a very capable rebounding team and this is the main thing that we talked about with this game,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. “So we failed on the boards, for sure, and it’s obviously the difference in the game.”

The Knicks, playing without injured starting forwards Julius Randle and OG Anunoby, were coming off a 14-2 January.

Randle will be out through the All-Star break with his dislocated right shoulder, while Anunoby missed his third straight game with right elbow inflammation. Guard Quentin Grimes was sidelined with a sprained right knee.

Smith had 20 points and Pascal Siakam had 18 for the Pacers.

The night got off to a loud start. When Brunson was announced as the first Knicks starter, it was also announced he had just been selected for his first All-Star Game, triggering a big ovation. Another one followed after the five starters were introduced, when it was then announced that Randle had also been chosen an All-Star.

But the Pacers kept the good times from continuing. They led 36-26 after one, then extended it to 41-26 early in the second on a 3-pointer by former Knicks forward Obi Toppin. Indiana kept the lead in double digits until the final 30 seconds of the half, when Brunson made a pair of baskets to trim it to 58-51.

The Pacers went back ahead by double digits in the third but missed their chance to put away the Knicks, who finally got their 3s to start falling in the fourth.

McBride and Brunson made consecutive 3s to tie it at 91, then Brunson made back-to-back baskets before Hartenstein slammed down the rebound of a missed shot to cap a 12-0 run and give New York a 97-91 lead.

Bennedict Mathurin missed his second straight game with a sprained toe for Indiana, which lost its second straight after a three-game winning streak.


Pacers: Host Sacramento on Friday.

Knicks: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.



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