Pascal Siakam, Josh Hart
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Pacers Not Getting Too High Despite Complete Performance in Game 4

At times, the Indiana Pacers' 2023-2024 season has resembled a rollercoaster ride.

During stretches of the regular season, the youthful group would beat a title contender one night before losing to a bottom-of-the-table team the next. Other weeks, the Blue & Gold would string together several wins and look like a top team in the Eastern Conference.

From leading the league in offense and making it to the In-Season Tournament Championship, to improving a bottom-tier defense and navigating fundamental roster changes, the Blue & Gold have ridden the waves of their current campaign together on the fly.

Despite inconsistencies, one thing has remained the same for this Pacers group: after each game, they would put the final result in the rearview mirror and keep their eyes ahead to the next matchup.

Chemistry and maturity take time and effort in the NBA, and experience has repeatedly proven vital to postseason success. And in an era where any team can erase a 15-point lead in the blink of an eye, it's never been more important to know how to win in various ways.

In Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Sunday at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, the Pacers took another step in the team's maturation process.

Indiana led at halftime in the first three games of their series against the New York Knicks, but saw those leads disappear in all those games. Only in Game 3 did the Pacers weather the storm, coming back from down nine points in the fourth quarter to pull off a dramatic win.

What happened in Game 4 was the culmination of the current group playing 10 total playoff games together this spring.

In Game 4, the Pacers smothered the Knicks from tip to final buzzer, posting a 121-89 home-court win to even the series at 2-2.

Unlike almost every other playoff game this year – including in the first round against the Milwaukee Bucks – the Pacers never gave their opponent a chance to come back, as they led the Knicks by 20 after the first quarter, 28 at halftime, and 38 going into the fourth quarter.

Game Recap: Pacers 121, Knicks 89

If you were to talk to Pacers players and coaches after the win, however, you'd hardly know they dominated from start to finish. Postgame celebrations ended when the team broke the huddle in the locker room.

Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who is playing in his first-ever playoffs, perhaps described the team’s current mentality best: "Now we have to, truthfully, flush that one."

"It just feels good to get a win, but we have to understand that at the end of the day, all we did is our job and win two games at home," Haliburton said. "We understand the magnitude of Game 5, and we'll be prepared for that."

Like Haliburton, veteran backup point guard T.J. McConnell has been one of the key voices in helping the team stay focused, and his mentality has spilled over to his teammates.

"It's obviously great to take care of home court. Enjoy it now, but as soon as we leave this building, we've got to flush it and move on and show maturity on that end," McConnell said. "Because what we're walking into at (Madison Square Garden) is going to be a hellacious crowd and they play really well in front of them because it's a great fanbase. So we have to really be ready and locked in."

Part of the reason the Pacers traded for starting forward Pascal Siakam in the winter was for his playoff experience. Siakam won a title with Toronto in 2019, and has played on teams that have come back from down 0-2 in a series.

During the first round series agianst the Bucks, Siakam preached to his teammates to not get too high or too low, and he's maintained that in the semis. When the Pacers fell down 0-2, Siakam calm demeanor never wavered.

"It's 2-2. It counts as one," Siakam said of Game 4. "I thought our focus was good from the beginning. Playing with our pace and intensity is something that we need to do."

If this Pacers team advances to the Eastern Conference Finals, it will be the first time the Blue & Gold have overcome a 0-2 deficit in a seven-game series in franchise playoff history. Since 1994, this will also be the sixth time the Knicks and Pacers go at least six games in the last seven playoff matchups.

With the current Pacers group, they’re confident they can get the job done against the Knicks.

"The last two games we did our job," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "We did what we needed to do. We protected home court…We're a team that's only halfway to our goal. We've got to understand that and have a great level of humility for what's coming on Tuesday night and be braced for it."

After playing the Knicks in Game 5 on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden, the Pacers will host Game 6 on Friday. If there's a Game 7, it will take place in New York on Sunday.

Indiana Pacers Postgame Media Availability vs. New York Knicks (Game 4) | May 12, 2024