How the Pacers slowed down Jalen Brunson in Game 6 and what they can do in Game 7

The Pacers did a fantastic job on Jalen Brunson in the first half of Game 6. This is how they can keep that momentum up for Game 7.
New York Knicks v Indiana Pacers - Game Six
New York Knicks v Indiana Pacers - Game Six / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

The Pacers entered Game 6 vs the New York Knicks with one goal, and that was to stop Jalen Brunson from giving them buckets. They succeeded.

After the disaster that was Game 5, it was clear that something needed to change with Indiana's defensive approach, and fast. Andrew Nembhard was once again given the task to defend Jalen Brunson in the first half, and it went about as well as it went in the first two games. However, when Aaron Nesmith was given the Brunson assignment in the second half of Game 5, he did quite well in limiting Brunson from getting to his spots and harassing him all night.

After the game, many analysts and fans were clamoring for Rick Carlisle to take notes from the game and put Nesmith on Brunson full-time for the rest of the series, starting with Game 6. In Game 6, not only did Carlisle agree and put Nesmith on Brunson, but he went up a level and sent double teams and traps at Brunson for the entirety of the first half.

In fact, while Nesmith was on Brunson to start the game, everyone got a crack at the superstar, including TJ McConnell, Obi Toppin, and yes, Andrew Nembhard, who redeemed his performance in the first two games and the first half of Game 5 by playing much more physical defense and not allowing any room for Brunson to operate.

As it turned out, this strategy worked like none other, as Brunson was held to his worst half in the playoffs so far, only scoring five points on disgusting shooting splits of 2/13 from the field and 0/3 from deep. In fact, Brunson could not even hit his free throws, as a combination of being thrown off his game and the loud Indiana crowd led to him shooting 1/4 from the free throw line in the first half.

Brunson would eventually pick it up in the second half, going for 26 points on 9/13 shooting to finish with 31 points on 11/26 from the field but the point still stands. Indiana's defensive strategy on Jalen Brunson worked, and Aaron Nesmith is the best option to have on him.

Game 7 will be a bit different, however. With OG Anunoby's possible return looming and Josh Hart's status up in the air, the Pacers can either tighten up on the defensive pressure on Brunson or have to lighten up a bit with more offensive weapons back. Brunson's defensive matchup in Game 7 is perhaps still up in the air, with Nesmith possibly being given the Anunoby assignment if he is playing, but being put back on Brunson if Anunoby isn't.

Either way, the Pacers should stick with the double-team and trap option. Since New York is short on consistent scorers, and Indiana did a good job closing out on shooters in Game 6, it is best for them to stick to that strategy for one more game, in hopes that they can harass Brunson into another poor performance for long enough to secure the series win.


It took them a while, but the Pacers may have finally figured out the Jalen Brunson matchup. Despite it happening six games into the series, it is better late than never and they have to take advantage now or risk elimination.