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Jalen Brunson’s injury finally crushed the Knicks’ resilience

For Knicks fans, there is no greater euphoria than the basketball team you love defending the Garden the same way Willis and Clyde defended it in the greatest Game 7 possible there 54 years ago.

It was the 7th heaven. On Seventh Avenue.

This 7th Heaven was supposed to be one of many Knicks of yesteryear fueling a fire and roar that they could have heard in Indiana.

This 7th heaven was supposed to be New York, ready to welcome an exhausted and smoke-exhausted team for tomorrow.

This 7th Heaven was supposed to end with a Bring On the Celtics! jubilation and celebration spread through the streets for the team who refused to lose.

No 7th Heaven.

Donte DiVincenzo reacts on the field during the third quarter. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

Hell instead.

And sure enough, Pacers 130, Knicks 109 ended with Jalen Brunson forced out for the fourth quarter with a broken left hand that he appeared to suffer from hitting it on the knee of a fast-breaking Tyrese Haliburton.

Fractured left hand, fractured dream.

“I didn’t play well enough to help my team advance,” he said.

And when Brunson, who has become New York’s biggest star, was asked why he said it wasn’t a successful year, he responded: “Did we win a championship?” Have we gotten closer?

Not close enough.

Knicks fans react to the Knicks’ loss to the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in front of Madison Square Garden. Michael Nagle

The Garden crowd had chanted “MVP,” implored him to find a way, as he had done so many times during the season, and he hadn’t. They chanted his name at the end of the match. It was a season-long love story, and for good reason.

“They’ve been just amazing,” Brunson said, “for myself, for this team, for my family… it’s really cool.” I’m so grateful for them and everything, and on nights when we needed energy, they provided it. I can’t really express what they mean to me, but they deserve a lot more than what we were able to do in this playoff series, they deserve a lot more than that.

He was 6 of 17 from the field – including 1 of 3 on 3-pointers – for 17 points with nine assists.

“I would say there are pros and cons to the way I played,” Brunson said. “I played well individually at times in the playoffs. The negative point is that I didn’t play well enough to help my team advance. You can say I got hurt in Game 7, I didn’t play well in Game 7…we were up 2-0 and 3-2, so it’s hard to see things individually when we don’t help our team. »

The Pacers were the loosest, smartest, toughest team…and the healthiest.

The news that Josh Hart (abdominal strain) and OG Anunoby (hamstring) would play didn’t faze the Pacers and didn’t inspire the Knicks. Anunoby (five points) would only play five minutes and was a defensive liability. Brave Hart (10 points, eight rebounds, five assists in 37 minutes) did what he could.

The Knicks needed MVP Brunson, an MVP Brunson to have the kind of unforgettable day that Clyde Frazier had in his seventh championship game against the Lakers.

On an afternoon when Donte DiVicenzo (39 points, nine 3-pointers) and Alec Burks (26 points in 27 minutes) woke up the Garden crowd and gave them hope against hope, the best version of Brunson might very well have bring the Knicks to the score. Eastern Conference Finals.

The Pacers cut the head of the Knicks snake by committing to taking the ball out of Brunson’s hands.

His errant passes led to a Haliburton layup that put the Pacers at 82, the Knicks at 70 shortly after the Knicks cut a 22-point first-half deficit to 73-67.

At that time, there had been chaos in the garden.

The monster of Madison Square Garden had awakened.

But only temporarily.

A five-second inbounds violation and a stolen inside pass did little to help the cause in the third quarter.

Brunson had converted a three-point play against Andrew Nembhard with 53.7 seconds left in the half, and here they were chanting “MVP,” before Pascal Siakam knocked back his layup just before intermission. The Pacers had made 22 of their first 27 shots, most of them too easy, and were 9 of 10 from downtown Indianapolis. They had shot 76.3 percent from the field in the first half — the highest mark ever by a team in a playoff half in the NBA play-by-play era.

Pascal Siakam #43 throws a shot as New York Knicks guard Miles McBride #2 is too late to defend during the third quarter. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

The Garden chanted “Dee-Fense” early and often and the Knicks never listened.

There are twenty-four minutes left in the season. Down 15. There’s still time for MVP Brunson.

He never appeared.

He briefly left the field with 4:06 remaining in the third quarter.

“I thought I just blocked him, to be honest with you,” Brunson said. “I looked down and knew something was wrong.”

And then the basketball gods made sure he couldn’t.

“I knew when he came out at third something was wrong,” Tom Thibodeau said.

Someone asked Brunson what it was like for him as a helpless spectator, helpless to try to prevent the end of the season.

“That sucked,” he said, then said it again.

Knicks guard Josh Hart #3 and New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson #11 on the bench during the second quarter. Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

At the worst possible time, he was Next Man Down.

“As a group, we had this Next Man Up mindset and we really took it to heart,” Brunson said.

It was Brunson’s cold-blooded designs to conquer and win that mitigated the debilitating effects of one Next Man Up after another.

Wait until next year. Again.

“I think the most important thing I need to do is continue to strive for perfection,” Brunson said. “Knowing I’ll never get there, I think I just need to be better every day. I don’t care what I did as a player, it doesn’t mean anything. I need to be better.

It was supposed to be a Garden Party.

Garden pot instead.

New York Post

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