Studs and Duds: Knicks hold a 2-1 lead over Indiana after shocker

NBA: Playoffs-New York Knicks at Indiana Pacers
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks, despite grappling with a slew of injuries, headed into Friday night’s matchup up 2-0 in the series against the Indiana Pacers. Their resilience shone through, even as it came down to a decisive three-pointer from Andrew Nembhard that put the Pacers ahead with just 16.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The performances of Donte DiVincenzo and Alec Burks epitomized the ‘next man up’ mentality that has been a hallmark for the Knicks since the start of the year.

The first round had been rough for DiVincenzo, leading many to question if he had the mettle to excel in the high-pressure NBA playoffs, where the physicality intensifies and the margin for error diminishes. Historically, many players shrink in the postseason, which often separates true contenders from the rest.

Donte DiVincenzo’s Breakout and Alec Burks’ Veteran Presence

However, DiVincenzo dispelled all doubts with a phenomenal 35-point performance in Game 3, hitting 7/11 from beyond the arc and achieving a 63% true shooting percentage. His aggressiveness was evident from the first quarter as he made consecutive threes, keeping the Knicks competitive early in the game.

The third quarter saw ‘Donte’s Inferno’ truly ignite, with DiVincenzo scoring 17 points, dominating the court, and helping the Knicks secure a late lead. His ability to stay calm and exploit his full skill set has made him an invaluable asset to the Knicks.

Alec Burks, after eight straight games without playing and less than a minute on the court in Game 2, emerged as a crucial figure in Game 3. With the Knicks searching for an offensive boost, Burks seized his moment, scoring 13 points in the second quarter alone on perfect shooting from the field.

Under coach Tom Thibodeau’s guidance, it’s clear that a player must always be prepared. Burks’ professionalism and impact, especially in mentoring DiVincenzo through his shooting slump, have proven invaluable.

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Hart has consistently proven himself as one of the most dominant role players in the NBA today. In Game 3, Hart contributed 10 points and 18 rebounds, marking his fourth consecutive double-double. His performances suggest that he is poised for a significant impact in Game 4, with the Knicks aiming to close the series at home.

The Knicks Need Brunson at 100%

Despite leading the NBA in playoff scoring, Jalen Brunson showed signs of fatigue in Game 3, exacerbated by minor injuries. With the team already missing key players like Robinson, Randle, and now Anunoby due to a sudden hamstring injury, the entire rotation needs to be even more focused. The Knicks face challenges in sustainability, which could become a critical talking point if they fail to secure a victory in Game 4.

An intense final sequence led to a loss for the Knicks in Game 3, but the team remains undeterred. DiVincenzo, despite his stellar performance, emphasized that his 35 points were meaningless without a win, highlighting the team’s focused mentality. As they prepare for Game 4, containing Indiana’s Tyrese Haliburton, who has been outstanding, will be crucial. Haliburton has averaged 34.5 points in the last two games following a modest six-point performance in Game 1. A strong showing on Sunday night could propel the Knicks to the Eastern Conference finals, setting high expectations for this resilient team.

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