Second-half collapse and poor rotation choices cost Pacers Game 2 vs New York Knicks

The Pacers are down 0-2 to the New York Knicks, and Rick Carlisle's puzzling rotations have a lot to do with it as well as their second-half demise.
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) looks to drive past
May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) looks to drive past / Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Indiana Pacers have dug themselves into a hole they may not get out of.

After the Game 1 loss in Madison Square Garden, the Pacers looked to return to form on Wednesday after a full day of rest and recovery. Despite losing the first game in crunch time partially due to a flurry of poor referee calls, hopes were high for Indiana to bounce back. More positive vibes were brought in after it was announced that Reggie Miller would make the trip to New York to do commentary in Game 2, reuniting with Spike Lee and the Knicks faithful.

Sure enough, Indiana came out of the gates strong, turning an early deficit into a 10-point halftime lead and plenty of momentum going into the second half. Specifically, Tyrese Haliburton was fantastic. In perhaps his best half of basketball since January, Haliburton put up 22 points on 7/12 shooting and made five threes while dishing out five assists and grabbing four rebounds. Gone was the lack of confidence from Game 1 and in came a more confident Haliburton who was more keen on breaking down the defense and taking every shot the defense gave him.

Additionally, T.J. McConnell was also fantastic in the first half, as he dished out nine assists and played masterfully in Haliburton's absence and even alongside him. Obi Toppin was also great off the bench, scoring 13 points in only 10 minutes of action in the first two quarters.

To make things even more dire for the Knicks, Jalen Brunson suffered a sore right foot and other smaller injuries in the first quarter and didn't return for the rest of the half, going back to the locker room and possibly being out for the entire game. This, along with the losses of Mitchell Robinson and Bojan Bogdanovic, gave Indiana a prime chance to steal Game 2 at home with the Knicks' main offensive weapon out for a while.

Unfortunately, this is where the momentum stopped. Despite earlier fears that he would be out for the rest of the game, Brunson was the first player back on the court after halftime and played the entire second half.

This is where Indiana collapsed for good, as after an Andrew Nembhard layup to increase the lead to 12, New York came storming back, tying up the game at 79-79 after going on a 16-4 run in the first four minutes of the third quarter. This was followed by OG Anunoby making a three-pointer to give New York an 82-79 lead, a lead they would not relinquish for the rest of the game.

Off the back of an awful Indiana scoring drought and some questionable officiating favoring the Knicks, New York quickly came back from the 12-point deficit and increased the lead to as much as nine, after going on an 11-2 run after tying the game up. During this run, OG Anunoby, who scored 28 points, left the game due to a sore hamstring and would not return, with his status for the rest of the series still in question.

Despite the injury to New York's second-leading scorer, Indiana could not do much to chip away at the lead, entering the third quarter down by eight points due to Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo combining for 22 points in the third quarter.

Unfortunately, despite cutting New York's lead to as little as a singular point in the fourth quarter, Indiana still lost 121-130. Part of this was due to Rick Carlisle's insistence to keep Aaron Nesmith in the game and refusal to sub T.J. McConnell back in, despite McConnell almost digging Indiana out of their hole.

Next. Next story. The three best Pacers playoff moments vs. the Knicks. dark

On a night where Nesmith only scored six points, shot 2/7 from deep, and was a -19, there is no reason why he should have played 34 minutes and nine minutes in the fourth quarter when Obi Toppin and Ben Sheppard were outplaying him all night. These questionable rotational decisions played a large part in Indiana going down 2-0 as the series shifts to Indiana for Games 3 and 4.