Knicks look to hold home court vs. Pacers in Game 7

The biggest trends of the Eastern Conference semifinal series between the Indiana Pacers and New York Knicks continued in Game 6 Friday night.

Whether the script remains the same for Game 7 may depend on the health of Knicks forward Josh Hart.

The Knicks will host the Pacers in the winner-take-all Game 7 Sunday afternoon, when the two teams battle to advance to the conference finals against the Boston Celtics.

The Pacers forced the decisive clash Friday night with a 116-103 victory in Indianapolis.

With the win by the Pacers, the home team improved to 6-0 in the series. The past three games have been decided by a combined 75 points after the first three games were decided by a combined 18 points.

For the undermanned Knicks, the most alarmingly familiar sign of all was Hart being limited to just under 31 minutes due to an abdominal injury. Hart, who had five points, eight rebounds and three assists before exiting for good with 9:53 remaining in the fourth quarter, entered Friday averaging almost 44 minutes per game through New York’s first 11 playoff contests. He has played every minute in three games, including a Game 5 overtime loss to the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.

“I would assume he’s going to play,” said Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson. “It’s Game 7.”

The Knicks are already without former All-Star Julius Randle, who is out for the season with a right shoulder injury, and Mitchell Robinson, who is expected to be out until at least mid-June after aggravating a left ankle injury in Game 1 against the Pacers on May 6. OG Anunoby has also missed the last four games with a left hamstring injury.

“You’re going to get tested physically, mentally, emotionally and you’ve got to be able to get through that,” Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau said Friday. “And so whatever it is that we’re facing, we can overcome. Just keep battling.”

The Pacers’ task Sunday will be to produce the defensive effort they’ve displayed in their three home games. Indiana limited the Knicks to 43.9 percent shooting (36-of-82) Friday, including 38.2 percent (13-of-34) from 3-point range, while out-rebounding the visitors 47-35.

New York is shooting 41.4 percent in three road games, including 34.7 percent from 3-point territory. The Knicks are shooting 52 percent at home, including 42 percent from beyond the arc, and out-rebounded Indiana 53-29 in a 121-91 win in Game 5.

“We needed to do better in the aggression department,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. “Game 5 in New York was, I would have to say, our lowest-aggression game of the entire playoffs. We didn’t have a very fun-filled film session (Thursday) watching it. You go through these ups and downs and young teams are going to grow.”

The Knicks are trying to reach the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 2000. The Pacers haven’t advanced to the conference finals since 2014.

“It’s going to take everything,” said Pacers power forward Pascal Siakam, who won the NBA championship in 2019 with the Toronto Raptors. “A lot of crazy stuff is going to happen.”