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Galvanized Pacers, Nuggets set for pair of crucial Game 5s tonight on TSN

Jalen Brunson New York Knicks Tyrese Haliburton Indiana Pacers Jalen Brunson Tyrese Haliburton - Getty Images

DENVER (AP) — The Denver Nuggets, who heeded their coach's admonition to start acting and playing like the reigning champs they are, and the Indiana Pacers saw to it that their semifinal series wouldn't feature any brooms.

The Pacers beat the New York Knicks in back-to-back games at home to even their Eastern Conference series 2-2 with Game 5 at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night.

Watch the Game 5 doubleheader LIVE Tuesday night with the Pacers and Knicks at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on TSN4, and the TSN App. Immediately after, see the Timberwolves battle the Nuggets at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.

“All we did was do our job,” Tyrese Haliburton said after the Pacers routed the Knicks 121-89 on Sunday. “When you’re at home, you have to protect home court, so we did our job.”

That hasn't happened so far in the Nuggets' series with the Minnesota Timberwolves.

After losing twice at home, the Nuggets were galvanized by so many national pundits shoveling dirt onto their grave and taking pot shots at Nikola Jokic after his awkwardly timed third MVP award. They responded by pummeling the Timberwolves twice in Minneapolis to knot the series heading into Tuesday night's Game 5 at Ball Arena.

“We came up here trying to get two. We got that. We have home court back,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said after Denver's 115-107 win on Sunday night. "We have to go home and protect our home court. We can’t allow them to get a third win at Ball Arena, and that’s a message to our fans, to come out and make that place just an absolute zoo.”

The Nuggets sure silenced the crowd in Minneapolis.

“I love when people count us out. It’s as simple as that," Aaron Gordon said after scoring 27 points Sunday night. “A lot of these guys on this team, they’ve been counted out before and been the underdogs and the dark horse in their career before, so they’ve operated from that space before.”


Series tied 2-2. Game 5, Tuesday, 8 p.m. EDT, TNT

— NEED TO KNOW: After three close games to open the series, the Pacers’ 121-89 victory in Game 4 on Sunday was one of their biggest and one of the Knicks’ most lopsided losses in their postseason histories. The sixth-seeded Pacers, who won once in Milwaukee in the first round, will now try to get the only victory they’d need at MSG if they can remain unbeaten at home.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: The point guards. Tyrese Haliburton has rebounded from a poor Game 1 with 29.7 points per game in the last three, making 17 3-pointers. T.J. McConnell has had double-doubles off the bench twice in the last three games. Meanwhile, Jalen Brunson was limited to 18 points in Game 4, his lowest of the postseason, to lower his average to 32.9 points, which is still tops among players still competing.

— INJURY WATCH: The Knicks, who were already missing three key players, haven’t been the same since losing OG Anunoby to a left hamstring injury late in Game 2. Brunson has been bothered by a sore foot that caused him to miss most of the first half of Game 2, but has insisted he is fine.

— PRESSURE IS ON: The Villanova Knicks. Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo and Josh Hart know there’s not much help behind them, like Indiana’s starters have if they struggle or just need a rest. If they can’t give the Knicks around 40 minutes apiece and probably combine for at least 70 points, there may not be a path to victory.


Series tied 2-2. Game 5, Tuesday, 10:30 p.m. EDT, TNT

— NEED TO KNOW: Despite their two home losses to start the series, the Nuggets are good at Ball Arena. They were 33-8 during the season, tied for the best mark in the West with Oklahoma City, and they went 3-0 against the Lakers at home in the first round. The Wolves have won all four of their playoff games away from Target Center in these playoffs.

— KEEP AN EYE ON: Michael Porter Jr. He had one of his lowest-scoring performances in his 56 career playoff games, chipping in just four points on 2-of-4 shooting Sunday night. If his past in any indication, MPJ will bounce back in a big way Tuesday night. He was the Nuggets' most consistent offensive threat outside of Jokic in the Nugget's five-game dispatch of the Lakers.

— INJURY WATCH: Jamal Murray has been playing with a strained left calf but had his best game coming off three days' rest in Game 3. He was still solid in Game 4 on two days' rest — as evidenced by his halfcourt dagger at the halftime buzzer that capped a series-shifting 8-0 run in the final 20 seconds — and will have two days' rest again heading into Game 5.

— PRESSURE IS ON: Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT had a tough Game 4, shooting 5-for-18 and getting burned along with Rudy Gobert by Nikola Jokic for 35 points. Anthony Edwards trusts KAT will bounce back. "He’s a superstar. He gets paid to put the ball in the rim," Edwards said. “I always tell him, ‘Don’t you ever stop shooting the ball because you missed five or six. I don’t give a damn. In order for us to win, we need you to score.'”


AP Basketball Writer Brian Mahoney and AP Sports Writers Dave Campbell and Michael Marot contributed to this report.