“Game 7 in New York City. What’s better than that?” That rhetorical question posed by Miles McBride in the Indiana Pacers’ visiting locker room following the New York Knicks 116-103 loss summed up the attitude with which New York must approach Game 7. Embrace the moment. Revel in the love from the home court. Set the pace of the game (as best they can). And try to enjoy another epic game in a rivalry filled with Game 7s and climactic moments.

For what it's worth, this Game 7 will be the Knicks' first Game 7 at home since 1995. The last one was ironically against the Pacers. And it resulted in a mind-numbing loss in which Patrick Ewing missed a game-tying finger roll as time expired. So, there are significant expectations to be met.

Jalen Brunson must be better

New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) shoots the ball while Indiana Pacers guard T.J. McConnell (9) defends during game six of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Gainbridge Fieldhouse
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The first thing that must change in Game 7 is Jalen Brunson. Stepping back, Brunson has been absolutely brilliant this postseason, and much of that play has been without a number of co-stars. It's not entirely fair to expect Brunson to continue putting up eye-popping stat lines with fewer and fewer impactful helpers by his side.

But here we are. And for what it's worth, he didn't just come up short in Game 6. He was a complete no-show. Something looked wrong from tip-off, and that didn’t change throughout the game. Yes, he scored 31 points and totaled 5 assists. But he shot a measly 11-for-26 from the field, and he missed three of his nine free throws.

And that doesn’t even summarize his poor play. He was out of sorts. He didn’t look to shoot three-pointers as willingly as usual. And, worst of all, he forced a lot of the action, missing open teammates and taking uncharacteristically poor shots. 

Fortunately, Brunson is a meticulous student of the game. He will inevitably review film in the lead up to Game 7. And while nothing is guaranteed, it's difficult to imagine him putting up another poor performance, especially at home in a legacy-building series finale. Hopefully he enough left in the tank to complete the mission.

Knicks' rebounding continues to be important

Then, there’s rebounding. The Knicks have lived and died by the rebound this entire postseason. Despite being significantly undermanned, that's translated to this series, too. And rebounding has been incredibly important for both teams, as the winner of all six games has also won the rebounding battle.

Sadly, the Knicks were bullied on the glass in Game 6, getting outbound 47-35. All of the energy that New York played with in Game 5 tilted to Indiana in Game 6, as the Pacers successfully kept New York off the offensive glass, meaning far fewer second-chance points.

It's hard to look at rebounding as more than effort and desire.  So, while it may sound cliche, Indiana just wanted it more in Game 6. And while it might seem like an oversimplification, whichever team grabs more rebounds in Game 7 will probably win the game. Will New York have enough bodies to win that battle?

The injury bug strikes again

There are also injuries to consider. As if the Knicks weren’t already banged up, they suffered another one in Game 6, and it was to the guy from whom they get their energy, Josh Hart. 

Hart was clearly in pain after a collision with Pascal Siakam following a missed free throw in the first quarter. Shortly after that, he asked to come out of the game, which is highly unusual for a guy who was averaging 40 minutes per game through this series entering Game 6, which included a blowout in Game 4 in which Hart played only 23 minutes. 

Hart’s teammates seemed optimistic that he'll be available for Game 7.

“Knowing him…He’ll do whatever to play,” Isaiah Hartenstein told the media. “If his leg’s not falling off…he’ll probably play. It’s hard. He’s done so much for us this season so we’ll see.”

“He seems like he's feeling better now,” Miles McBride said. “I'm not sure about the whole situation. For a guy like that, pretty tough, asking out is not a good sign. But, I think he’ll bounce back.”

Even Brunson exuded confidence in his former college teammate’s ability to play through the pain and discomfort. “I would assume he's playing. It's Game 7,” Brunson said. 

So, maybe Hart plays. Or maybe that's all a ruse, or players remaining confident in the face of a serious injury. We'll know which it is soon enough.

With that said, OG Anunoby's status for Game 7 is unclear, and sets the stage for a major momentum shifter. If Anunoby and Hart are available, it could provide a Willis Reed-like spark for a team in desperate need of bodes and energy. If they're not, the Knicks have a tall task ahead of themselves. Fortunately, they won't go at it alone. They'll have nearly 20,000 Knicks fans behind them. And that's certainly better than going into battle alone, especially for a team with multiple injured contributors who feed off the adrenaline and energy supplied by its crow.