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

Knicks-Pacers: 4 things to look for in Game 7

It's been 29 years since New York hosted a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. Here's what to know before Sunday's matchup.

Facing elimination in Game 6, Indiana responds with one of its most inspired performances all season to extend the series.

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The New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers have navigated their way to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals in what should be an incredible atmosphere at Madison Square Garden.

Some NBA history to know:

  • Excluding games from the 2020 “bubble” playoffs, home teams are 110-35 (.759) in Game 7s in NBA history.
  • The Knicks are 5-2 in Game 7s at Madison Square Garden, though the last one was 29 years ago, a 97-95 win for the Pacers in the 1995 Eastern Conference semis.
  • Six players who could play rotation minutes on Sunday have Game 7 experience, though only four have played more than 10 Game 7 minutes, and one of those is OG Anunoby, who’s missed the last four games.

Knicks and Pacers Game 7 experience

Pascal Siakam 2 1-1 79.4 12.0 39.1%
Myles Turner 2 0-2 53.8 6.0 28.6%
Jalen Brunson 2 1-1 40.1 13.0 59.1%
O.G. Anunoby 1 0-1 35.5 4.0 33.3%
Donte DiVincenzo 1 1-0 8.4 3.0 150.0%
Aaron Nesmith 1 1-0 2.1 3.0 150.0%

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
Bojan Bogdanovic (injured), James Johnson (not in Pacers’ rotation) and Shake Milton (not in Knicks’ rotation) have also played in Game 7s.

This Game 7 could be very different than others these guys have played in, and it could be very different than earlier games in this series.

You never know what kind of game you’re going to get, but here are some things to keep an eye out for in Game 7 on Sunday (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC).

1. How healthy is Hart?

Josh Hart has been the Knicks’ iron man in these playoffs, averaging 42.6 minutes per game. But he appeared to suffer an abdominal injury in the first quarter of Game 6, and he asked to come out midway through the first and third periods. So his status for Game 7 is unknown, and even if he plays, he certainly won’t be at 100 percent.

Hart’s energy is obviously a huge part of what the Knicks do. They don’t run a lot, but when they do get some easier baskets in transition, Hart is usually leading the break. He also has 34 offensive rebounds, third most in the playoffs, trailing teammate Isaiah Hartenstein and Kia NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.

Hart has also been a big part of the Knicks’ success at home.

The home team has won all six games in this series, and there are some big differentials in regard to how effectively players have shot at home vs. how they’ve shot on the road. The biggest belongs to Hart, who has an effective field goal percentage of 63.4% in the three games in New York, but just 38.1% in the three games in Indiana:

Biggest difference, home vs. road effective field goal percentage

Home Road Diff.
Josh Hart 24 41 58.5% 63.4% 7 21 33.3% 38.1% 25.3%
Myles Turner 18 28 64.3% 75.0% 17 39 43.6% 51.3% 23.7%
Alec Burks 6 12 50.0% 70.8% 11 25 44.0% 54.0% 16.8%
Jalen Brunson 43 79 54.4% 58.2% 27 69 39.1% 42.8% 15.5%
Pascal Siakam 27 44 61.4% 62.5% 22 49 44.9% 48.0% 14.5%

eFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

One fascinating subplot in this series has been Hart’s willingness to shoot open 3-pointers when the Pacers leave him alone to put more bodies in front of Brunson. After shooting 19-for-42 (45%) from beyond the arc over his first nine playoff games, he’s just 3-for-13 (23%) over the last three.

There was one possession in Game 6 on Friday where he hesitated to shoot off the catch and then had to shoot a step-back 3 with four seconds left on the shot clock:

Josh Hart step-back 3-point attempt

2. Can Haliburton hold up Brunson?

Through the first four games of this series, the Knicks player Tyrese Haliburton was guarding set a total of 23 screens for Brunson, according to Second Spectrum tracking. But in Game 5, Haliburton’s man (mostly Miles McBride) set 22 screens for Brunson.

The Knicks didn’t score very efficiently on those possessions (0.77 points per chance) and their 30-point win was more about the other end of the floor. But Haliburton’s defense on those screens was not good:

Jalen Brunson floater in Game 5

In Game 6 on Friday, Haliburton defended those screens (12 of them) with more effort and toughness, allowing Aaron Nesmith to get back in front of Brunson after navigating the screen. Haliburton even chased down Brunson to block a runner in the lane midway through the first quarter:

Tyrese Haliburton block on Jalen Brunson

Nesmith staying out of foul trouble is also critical to the Pacers’ success in defending the Knicks’ point guard. Brunson has beat every defender at some point in this series, but among Indiana’s starters, Nesmith has done the best job of navigating those screens and making him work.

Andrew Nembhard has not been that guy, with Brunson shooting 19-for-28 (68%) against him this series.

On the other end of the floor, the Pacers set almost as many screens for Haliburton with Brunson’s man in Game 6 (7) as they did through the first five games (nine). The Pacers have made Brunson work with their pressure defense, but they could also make him work a little more with their offense.

3. Can Siakam take advantage of his matchup?

As noted above, Pascal Siakam has not shot well (effective field goal percentage of just 39.1%) in the two Game 7s he’s played in. Both of them were ugly, with Siakam’s Raptors and their opponents (Philadelphia in 2019 and Boston in 2020) combining to score just 98.9 points per 100 possessions.

But he’s been the leading scorer for the No. 1 offense in these playoffs. And he’s scored efficiently (21.7 points on a true shooting percentage of 65.4%) in the Pacers’ three wins in this series.

With McBride starting the last two games, Hart has been Siakam’s primary defender. And Siakam’s shooting against Hart (19-for-28) is exactly the same as Brunson’s shooting against Nembhard. In Game 6, Siakam played big early and often, helping the Pacers outscore the Knicks by 24 points in the paint (62-38), New York’s worst differential of the season.

The Knicks put Isaiah Hartenstein on Siakam in the second half on Friday, but still couldn’t get stops. Putting a bigger defender on Siakam means putting a smaller one on Myles Turner, who had a tip dunk over Donte DiVincenzo early in the third quarter.

The Knicks (assuming Anunoby isn’t available) could also go back to their bigger starting lineup, with Precious Achiuwa in place of McBride, though that group has been outscored by 16 points (34.3 per 100 possessions) in 29 minutes in this series.

4. Who wins the possession game?

This has been the most efficient offensive series of these playoffs, with the two teams having combined to score 120.2 points per 100 possessions through the first six games.

But over the last 10 years (since the 2015 playoffs), teams have shot just 43.0% in Game 7s, down from 45.4% in Games 1-6. And if fewer shots are going in, rebounding is more important.

The Knicks have been the best offensive rebounding team in the playoffs. And their offensive rebounding percentage has been much higher in their seven wins (41.6%) than its been in their five losses (30.6%). They absolutely destroyed the Pacers on the glass in Game 5, but Game 6 came with their lowest overall rebounding percentage of the playoffs (44.2%).

Priority No. 1 for the Pacers on Sunday is securing the defensive boards. And key to that could be reserve Isaiah Jackson. The back-up center has averaged just 13 minutes in this series, but the Pacers’ defensive rebounding percentage has been highest with him on the floor.

Despite the Knicks’ advantage on the glass, the Pacers have had more shooting opportunities in four of the six games, because they continue to have the lowest turnover rate in the playoffs. Their Game 5, 30-point loss in New York came with their highest turnover rate of the postseason, but they got back to taking care of the ball in Game 6 and will need to continue to do so on Sunday.

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John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on X. 

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