Pacers Win Game 7 at MSG, Face Celtics in ECF

“Well, we’re the uninvited guest,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “Here we are. When you win a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, you’ve made history. It’s very, very difficult to do.”

Sunday afternoon’s game between New York and Indiana was supposed to be a triumphant moment for the Knicks. Playing at Madison Square Garden against an old rival, the Knicks had a golden opportunity to produce one of the best moments the franchise has had in decades. Instead, the Pacers ruined the party immediately.

Indiana shot 76% in the first half and 67.1% overall — setting an NBA record for the highest field goal percentage in a playoff game. The Pacers took a 15-point lead into halftime after connecting on 20-of-25 jumpers in the first 24 minutes. Any hopes New York had of mounting a comeback were extinguished in the third quarter when start guard Jalen Brunson broke his hand.

“It’s a part of the game and, like I said, this group, we didn’t make excuses for anything,” Brunson said. “And so if things happen, we go forward with what we had. Obviously we wanted everyone healthy…You can say I got hurt in Game 7, I wasn’t playing well in Game 7. We had a 2-0 and a 3-2 lead, it’s just hard to look at things individually when you don’t help your team.”

Brunson had 17 points and nine assists before leaving the game and the Knicks never challenged Indiana en route to a 130-109 loss. All five of Indiana’s starters scored at least 17 points — led by Tyrese Haliburton’s 26-point effort. For New York, the team enters the offseason wondering what could have been. The Knicks were plagued by injuries late in the season and throughout the playoffs, robbing them of a true opportunity to win the Eastern Conference.

As for Indiana, the Pacers will have no time to rest as they face the 1-seed Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. Game 1 is Tuesday night in Boston.