INDIANAPOLIS (AP)Jalen Brunson scored 30 points, Julius Randle made six free throws in the final minute and the New York Knicks beat the Indiana Pacers 109-106 on Sunday for their NBA-best seventh consecutive victory.
The 19th and final lead change came in the final minute, when Randle made two foul shots with 45.6 seconds remaining for a 105-104 lead. After the teams exchanged turnovers, Randle hit four more free throws in the final two possessions. The Pacers missed a shot from just inside half-court at the buzzer.
”Right now, New York is as good as any team in the NBA,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.
Randle finished with 25 points and 14 rebounds. RJ Barrett added 24 points.
”To win on the road and like this, it was tough,” Randle said. ”It was a hard game, but we got it done.”
Brunson, who was 11 of 22 from the field with three 3-pointers, started a fourth-quarter comeback from a 104-98 hole with a 3-pointer and then a steal and a layup in a span of 24 seconds.
”We just kept fighting,” Brunson said. ”We’re confident, but we know we’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve just got to stay focused. We can’t relax. We can’t have bad days. We’ve got to stay focused.”
Randle and Barrett have carried the Knicks during the winning streak. Randle averaged 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the previous six games. Barrett averaged 22 points and 6.8 rebounds.
”Win streaks don’t mean anything. This game won’t mean anything in our next game,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. ”You’ve got to start all over, put the work in preparation and when the ball goes up, be ready to go.
”Obviously, it’s always better to win. But to think you’re going to win the next game because you have a win streak, if you start skipping over the steps to prepare for a game, then there’s going to be slippage and then you’re going to get knocked down. And I don’t want us to get knocked down. I want us to be ready for the next game.”
Buddy Hield and Aaron Nesmith each had 23 points for Indiana. Tyrese Haliburton and Bennedict Haliburton each added 15.
”Great basketball game; highly, highly competitive,” Carlisle said. ”It came down to the razor-thin margins of plays at the end of the game. They made some big plays and we were unable.”
The Pacers, No. 1 in bench scoring at 41.9 points per game, had a 35-14 edge in reserves points.
A first half with seven lead changes and five ties ended with the Knicks ahead 54-53 after the Pacers’ Buddy Hield had a last-minute 3-pointer changed to two points. By the end of the third quarter, there were 13 lead changes with the Pacers ahead 85-84.
Knicks: Randle’s second 3-pointer moved him past Nate Robinson for ninth on the team’s career list at 415. He also passed Walt Bellamy for 28th on the scoring list with 5,083 points. … Since Dec. 4, the Knicks lead the league in fewest points allowed at 97 per game.
Pacers: PF Jalen Smith, a 27-game starter, came off the bench for the third time in two weeks as coach Rick Carlisle went with a smaller, quicker lineup. … Reserve G Chris Duarte (left ankle sprain) saw his first action since Nov. 4. … Mathurin received his Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month award before the game.
Knicks: Host Golden State on Tuesday night.
Pacers: At Boston on Wednesday night.
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