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NBA: Jalen Brunson shakes off injury, sends Knicks past Pacers
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NBA: Jalen Brunson shakes off injury, sends Knicks past Pacers

Jalen Brunson returned from injury in the first half and sparked a second-half comeback Wednesday night for the host New York Knicks, who defeated the Indiana Pacers 130-121 in Game 2 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series.

The second-seeded Knicks lead the sixth-seeded Pacers 2-0 in the best-of-seven series. Game 3 is scheduled for Friday evening in Indianapolis.

Brunson missed the final 15:32 of the first half with a right foot injury. The Knicks led 24-17 when Brunson left, but they entered the second half trailing 73-63.

Brunson received a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd at Madison Square Garden after leading the Knicks in warmups prior to the third quarter. He played all 24 minutes in the second half and had 24 of his team-high 29 points — along with four assists, two steals and one rebound — over the final two quarters, as New York defeated the Pacers 67-48.

“A lot of toughness,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said of Brunson. “I think that’s the makeup. We know that’s his makeup, but that’s our team’s makeup too.

“The mental toughness piece is so important: the ability to get through things, to be your best when you need to be your best, even when you might not feel your best. And that’s who he is. Great leader.”

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New York’s OG Anunoby scored 28 points before leaving with 3:27 left in the third quarter due to a left hamstring injury. The Knicks are already playing without Mitchell Robinson, who will miss at least six weeks after aggravating a left ankle injury in Game 1, and Julius Randle, who is out for the season due to a right shoulder injury suffered in January.

Donte DiVincenzo also had 28 points, while Josh Hart (19 points, 15 rebounds) and Isaiah Hartenstein (14 points, 12 rebounds) posted double-doubles for the Knicks, who played the final 8:01 without making a substitution.

Tyrese Haliburton had 34 points and nine assists for the Pacers, while Obi Toppin scored 20 points off the bench. Andrew Nembhard had 15 points, Pascal Siakam added 14 points and nine rebounds and TJ McConnell had a double-double (10 points, 12 assists) off the bench.

‘We have to go home. We have to play better,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

Nembhard opened the third quarter with a layup for the Pacers before New York went on a 36-16 run to end the period with a 99-91 lead. Indiana scored the first six points of the fourth and went on a 10-3 run that ended when McConnell hit a layup with 8:03 remaining to cut the Pacers’ deficit to 102-101.

Hart hit a 3-pointer and Indiana pulled within two points four more times, the last coming at 112-110 on a floater by Haliburton with 4:35 to go. But DiVincenzo drained an open corner 3-pointer on the Knicks’ next trip, and Siakam missed a 3-point try and two free throws on the Pacers’ next possession.

“At the end of the day we got outplayed,” Haliburton said. “We were there to win the game.

“In the end it is 2-0. We’re going back to Indy and I like us in every match. I’m not worried.”