Has fatigue finally caught up to the Knicks?

May 12, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) dribbles the ball while New York Knicks guard Donte DiVincenzo (0) defends during game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks looked sluggish from the start of Game 4 versus the Indiana Pacers. Sooner than later, they found themselves trailing by 28 at halftime, and never made it a relatively competitive game at any point. In what could have been a momentum-shifting win heading back to Madison Square Garden, the series has now turned into a best-of-three, tied 2-2 after the slaughtering of the injury-riddled Knicks.

Injuries are finally catching up with the Knicks

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) drives past Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) in the third quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks forward OG Anunoby (8) drives past Indiana Pacers forward Obi Toppin (1) in the third quarter during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

There are basketball reasons as to why the Knicks lost Game 4 by a score of 121-89. However, a lot of that could be attributed to fatigue settling into a team that has endured a workload like no other.

With their rotation becoming increasingly thin thanks to injuries to OG Anunoby, Bojan Bogdanovic, and Mitchell Robinson during these playoffs, guys have had to play significantly more than they are accustomed to. It seemed like nothing could stop the Knicks from trudging through the adversity, but the harsh reality sunk in on Sunday that the mounting injuries may have finally caught up to them.

The Knicks showed signs of serious fatigue in Game 4

May 12, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) shoots the ball while  Indiana Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith (23) defends during game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
May 12, 2024; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) shoots the ball while Indiana Pacers forward Aaron Nesmith (23) defends during game four of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Nobody on the Knicks had the same energy they had shown throughout the playoffs in Game 4. Jalen Brunson, who scored 18 points on 6-17 shooting (0-5 from three), looked to still be hobbled from his foot injury suffered in Game 2, as most of the jump shots he took came up way short of the basket.

Josh Hart, who entered the game as the leading rebounder in the playoffs, only snatched three boards in 24 minutes. Donte DiVincenzo, who scored a playoff career-high 35 points in Game 3, had just seven points and shot 1-6 from three in Game 4.

The Pacers, meanwhile, played to their model right from the get-go. They shot the lights out from three (45%), won the rebound battle 52-43, and just outplayed the Knicks in every facet.

“There is no ‘we’re short-handed.’ There is no excuse. There’s no excuse whatsoever. If we lose, we lose,” said Brunson after the game (h/t SNY).

It is no secret that Indiana looked and played with greater energy and pace than New York did. The short rest between games three and four combined with the heavy workload likely attributed to their poor effort on both ends of the floor. However, the players will shoot down those excuses since they all possess a workhorse mentality. The focus now will be to rest up for what will be a pivotal Game 5 back home.

Anunoby going down put the Knicks in a tough position

May 6, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) controls the ball against New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) during the second quarter of game one of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
May 6, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Indiana Pacers forward Pascal Siakam (43) controls the ball against New York Knicks forward Precious Achiuwa (5) during the second quarter of game one of the second round of the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Since Anunoby went down with a hamstring injury in Game 2, the Knicks have had Precious Achiuwa start in his place, and it has not worked out for them. Anunoby gave the Knicks stability at the forward position with his defense and three-point shooting. It’s no wonder they are 26-5 in the games he has played and 13-16 he has not (including the postseason).

Alec Burks has re-entered the rotation, and while he has played well, he is essentially the only guy with fresh legs since he hadn’t played all postseason until this series. Having to rely on him in a playoff setting was not what they envisioned coming in.

The Knicks are running out of options. This is the biggest challenge they have faced all postseason, and every game the rest of the way will be an even greater challenge to get through with all the injuries to the roster.

A silver-lining from the Knicks’ Game 4 loss: The starters got to rest

Ironically, the one good thing that came out of this Game 4 disaster was that the starters were able to get additional rest. Only Brunson and DiVincenzo eclipsed the 30-minute mark, and Hart played only 24 minutes after playing nearly the full contest in every other game thus far.

No longer can New York just wait for Anunoby to get back to turn things up, as there is still yet a timetable for his return, and the update from head coach Tom Thibodeau that he hasn’t done any running is not an encouraging sign on his availability the rest of the series. The only way to come out of this series victorious is if the group they currently have can feel energized and rested for the remainder of the series.

“We have to really get back to playing our basketball, coming back to playing for the fans like that, said Isaiah Hartenstein after Game 4 (h/t SNY’s Ian Begley). “Because the way we played, especially today, was not respectful to the fans and how they support us.”

Mentioned in this article:

More about: