2024 Playoffs: East Semifinal | Knicks (2) vs. Pacers (6)

NBA Playoffs: What to expect in Knicks-Pacers series

The New York-Indiana playoff rivalry is rebooted with an All-Star guard matchup between Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton.

Teammates on the All-Star team, Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton meet now as foes with their respective seasons on the line.

It took a little longer than either of these teams would have liked – both the Knicks and the Pacers suffered disappointing Game 5 defeats before closing out the Sixers and the Bucks, respectively. But they got it done in a Thursday doubleheader to set up a rematch of the franchises’ thrilling 2013 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Indiana won the 2023-24 season series, 2-1, and outscored the Knicks by an average of 123.3-115.3. All three meetings came before the All-Star break, so it’s been a while.

Series schedule

Here’s how to watch the Knicks vs. Pacers series:

All times Eastern Daylight Time

  • Game 1: Pacers vs. Knicks, Monday, May 6 (7:30 p.m., TNT)
  • Game 2: Pacers vs. Knicks, Wednesday, May 8 (8 p.m., TNT)
  • Game 3: Knicks vs. Pacers, Friday, May 10 (7 p.m., ESPN)
  • Game 4: Knicks vs. Pacers, Sunday, May 12 (3:30 p.m., ABC)
  • Game 5: Pacers vs. Knicks (TBD, TBD) *
  • Game 6: Knicks vs. Pacers (TBD, TBD) *
  • Game 7: Pacers vs. Knicks (TBD, TNT) *

* = If necessary

Top storyline

Battle of the point guards. Teammates on the East All-Star squad a few months ago, Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton meet now as opponents with their respective seasons on the line and a trip to the conference finals on tap for one. Brunson likely will be a top-five finisher in Kia MVP balloting. Haliburton led the NBA in assists. Both could land on All-NBA teams.

Each has been his team’s driving force, but goes about the job in his own way. Haliburton is a lanky, pass-first playmaker who drove the equivalent of an Indy 500 car, with the Pacers leading the NBA with 123.3 points per game.

Brunson is a strong, stocky grinder who elevated his game through injuries to teammates such as Julius Randle, OG Anunoby and Mitchell Robinson.

This season, Brunson averaged 35.7 points against the Pacers, shooting 49.4% and earning 10 trips to the line per game. Haliburton was Indiana’s leading scorer vs. New York, averaging 19.7 while dishing 13.3 assists. The one who wins this matchup likely carries his team to another round.

Keep your eyes on

Knicks’ D vs. Pacers’ O. The Pacers were held below 100 points just once in 82 regular-season games. Then Milwaukee, not known anymore for its defense, stopped them on 94 and 92 points twice in the first four games of their first-round series.

Now it’s the Knicks’ turn. Don’t think coach Tom Thibodeau won’t go to school on what the Bucks did with their switching and cross-matches. They’ll need every trick they can learn, because the Pacers scored 30 points or more in eight of the 12 quarters between the teams. Their shooters drained 47.6% of their 3-point attempts and 54.6% overall.

Gumming up Indiana’s attack is the key. The Pacers ranked No. 2 in the NBA in pace and averaged 16.6 fast-break points. Forcing them to play in the halfcourt, get stuck in isolation and fight the shot clock is a recipe for disrupting their rhythm.

1 more thing to watch for each team

For the Knicks: OG Anunoby. A pesky and versatile defender, Anunoby played only one game against Indiana – and that was way back in November when he still was with Toronto. He was inactive for all three meetings after his trade to New York. Elbow surgery cost him two months, but the Knicks were 20-3 with him in the lineup and, for whatever you think of plus/minus ratings, Anunoby was a plus in all 23 appearances. He figures to log minutes against his old Raptors teammate Pascal Siakam.

For the Pacers: Myles Turner. Turner is the dean of longest-tenured Pacers, as far as playoff experience. He’s at 32 games and counting over six postseasons, now getting out of the first round for the first time. He had a clunker in the clincher over Milwaukee (1-of-6, 5 points, 4 fouls), but he averaged 22.0 points and shot 47.4% from the arc in the first five games. He won’t be the load that Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid was for Isaiah Hartenstein and Robinson to body up, but Turner moves better, is more dangerous with threes and finishes strong on breaks.

1 key number to know

3.07  In beating the Bucks in six games in the first round, the Pacers had an assist/turnover ratio of 3.07, the highest mark for any team in any series in (at least) the last 30 years. This came after they recorded the highest regular-season assist/turnover ratio (2.38) in the 47 seasons for which turnovers have been tracked.

Among 20 players with at least 25 total assists in the playoffs through Thursday, Pascal Siakam (25/3), Andrew Nembhard (28/5), T.J. McConnell (27/6) and Tyrese Haliburton (56/16) had the highest, second highest, fourth highest and fifth highest assist/turnover ratios. And by taking care of the ball so well, the Pacers averaged 2.4 more shooting opportunities per game than Milwaukee.

The Knicks didn’t take care of the ball quite as well in their series vs. Philadelphia, but they took care of it better than their opponent and also grabbed 37% of available offensive rebounds. With that, they averaged 5.9 more shooting opportunities than the Sixers, a jump from their league-best differential of +3.9 per game in the regular season.

Shooting is the most important thing in this game, but it also pays to get more shots than your opponent. And this series could come down to turnovers (or the lack thereof) on one end of the floor vs. rebounds on the other end.

— John Schuhmann

The pick

Knicks in six. New York is more likely to set the pace for this series, which will thwart Indiana’s biggest strength, that faster preferred style. Brunson has been irrepressible, averaging 31 points since the All-Star break with a usage rating (35.5) that would match Luka Doncic’s season-long mark. Role players Anunoby, Hartenstein, Josh Hart and Donte DiVincenzo are gritty complements. And while we don’t want to put too much weight on the In-Season Tournament, the Pacers did shrink with the NBA Cup on the line in Las Vegas. This stage is even bigger.

* * *

Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Warner Bros. Discovery.