Knicks set for second round against the Pacers, an old-school playoff rival who play a new-age game

Back when the New York Knicks would annually march on in the playoffs, they’d almost always run into the Indiana Pacers

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NEW YORK (AP) — Back when the New York Knicks would annually march on in the playoffs, they'd almost always run into the Indiana Pacers.

With the teams set to renew their playoff rivalry Monday in the Eastern Conference semifinals, it's easy to think back to those rough and rugged tussles in the 1990s. But while the matchup may be old school, Jalen Brunson and the Knicks are bracing for an opponent who plays a new-age style.

Tyrese Haliburton runs the NBA's highest-scoring offense, with Indiana putting numbers on the scoreboard that make the ones in the past Knicks-Pacers contests look like a different sport, not just a different century.

“I guess whenever you have the original teams from back then, there’s always going to be some type of history," Brunson said. "But you have two good teams who play very, I don’t want to say different, but like, they play their own style of basketball. And so it’s going to be a grind of who’s going to go out there, who’s going to want it more who’s going to try to go get it.”

Brunson led the No. 2-seeded Knicks past Philadelphia in the first round, sending the Knicks into the East semifinals in consecutive seasons for the first time since making nine straight trips between 1992 and 2000.

He scored 40 or more points in the final three games, just the seventh player in NBA history with three straight 40-point games in the playoffs. The league's No. 4 scorer in the regular season tops all players in the postseason with 35.5 per game.

Indiana's big numbers come as a team. The Pacers led the league with 123.3 points per game, sixth highest in league history, and also were tops in field goal percentage and assists. They reached 140 points 11 times, an NBA record.

The sixth-seeded Pacers haven't slowed down too much in the playoffs. They averaged 113 while knocking off No. 3 Milwaukee and reached at least 120 in all four victories during the six-game series.

The Knicks and Pacers met three straight times from 1993-95 — exchanging Game 7 victories in the latter two — then again from 1998-2000, with the last two of those in the Eastern Conference finals. Indiana won the most recent meeting, ousting the No. 2-seeded Knicks in the 2013 East semifinals.

Neither team ever reached 120 points in any of the 41 games.

“It’s just a very intense matchup, that’s really the simple truth about it,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "There’s a lot of stuff with Reggie Miller for five or six years and I know in 2013 there was another matchup. We’re going to have to be very resilient and we’re going to have to be very together.”

THIS SEASON

Indiana went 2-1 against New York and was right at its season average with 123.3 points per game, including 140 in a Dec. 30 victory when the Knicks were short-handed after a trade. Brunson averaged 35.7 points.

BRUNSON VS. HALIBURTON

The point guards were U.S. teammates last summer playing in the Basketball World Cup, then went on to have their best NBA seasons. Both were All-Stars, with Haliburton the Eastern Conference starter in his home arena en route to leading the league with 10.9 assists per game.

EX-RAPTOR VS. EX-RAPTOR

Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby were starters in Toronto to begin the season before the forwards were traded, with Anunoby going to the Knicks in December and Siakam to Indiana in January. The Knicks are 24-5 with Anunoby in the lineup and may need him now to defend his former teammate, who opened the playoffs with consecutive games of at least 35 points and 10 rebounds.

BRUNSON VS. CARLISLE

Brunson began his career in Dallas playing for Carlisle, who praised his former player's character and said they had a great three years together. Brunson was asked if he had extra motivation after an ESPN podcast referenced his frustration in getting only 10 minutes of playing time in a Game 7 loss to the Clippers in 2021.

"In all honesty, I said this last time, you’re in the playoffs now, there is no extra motivation," Brunson said. “It is what it is, the past is the past. Rick, he welcomed me into this league and he helped me become the player and he helped me grow from day one. So a coach has got to make decisions that suit their team. So whatever happened, happened and we’re moving forward from there.”

OBI'S OPPORTUNTITY

Obi Toppin was the Knicks' first-round pick in 2020 and became a fan favorite, though rarely got extended playing time behind All-Star Julius Randle. He scored a career playoff-high 21 points off the bench in the clinching victory over Milwaukee and now heads back to his original NBA home.

“They’re one of the most physical teams in the league," Toppin said. "They’ve had that identity for many years and we’ve got to come in there and match that physicality and play our style of basketball, and I think we’ll be good at that.”

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AP Sports Writer Michael Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.

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