Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and guard Josh Hart talk with head coach...

Knicks guard Jalen Brunson and guard Josh Hart talk with head coach Tom Thibodeau, right, during the second half of Game 4 against the Pacers in an NBA second-round playoff series Sunday in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

When the Knicks exited Gainbridge Fieldhouse Sunday afternoon they tried to leave behind the carnage that they’d just witnessed — the 43-point deficit, the 32-point loss — and forget about what had gone haywire in those 48 minutes.

And with a day off, two nights in their own beds, they were ready to regroup and focus on Tuesday night’s Game 5 at Madison Square Garden, remembering all that they’d done to get to this spot, a raucous crowd awaiting with 19,812 voices to push the few remaining healthy bodies actually on the floor.

There was little sense in wasting time on the game film of a game where everything went wrong. So the Knicks instead clung to the belief that they found themselves, even after two straight losses in Indiana, with a homecourt advantage and nearly as many rotation players in street clothes as there were in uniform.

“Right now it’s a best-of- three,” Josh Hart said. “We’re the two seed. We’ve been injured all year long, and right now we’re here two wins away from being in the Eastern Conference finals.

“So I think if you ask anyone at the beginning of the season, they would take that, especially if you say you don’t have Julius Randle], you don’t have Mitch Robinson], you don’t have [Bojan Bogdanovic], you don’t have OG [Anunoby]. I think everybody would want to be in that position. Obviously, we had two tough losses, physically and emotionally, but we’re still in a good position. We’re not down 3-1, 3-0. It’s a tied series and we’ve got a game at home.”

After two games in which they saw a tightly contested chance to go up three games to none disappear with a number of questionable calls and a 31-foot, go-ahead basket in the final minute and then a blowout that was over soon after the opening tip, the Knicks appeared beaten up and maybe reaching the end of the line, exhausted and outmanned.

But coming home, they insisted, will provide a lift that they needed — for a reprieve from the road trip that put them in this predicament to possibly a Game 7 at the Garden.

“The fans? 1,000%,” Jalen Brunson said. “I made that pretty clear that they help us a lot and I don’t think the words can describe how thankful we are. It’s unexplainable, to be honest with you. I don’t think I can put it into words.”

“For sure, this should be the most energetic game, the most chaotic game for fans and for us,” Hart said. “This is a must-win for us. Don’t quote me — I think every win is a must-win for us. But going home with these fans, you know the energy is going to be there. So we just gotta make sure we use that, and we come out and play a full 48.”

The time away from the court — a day spent with his wife Monday for Hart — gave the Knicks a chance to regain their balance and hopefully heal up and rest up. The one-sided loss at least gave them a game without heavy minutes piled on the starters and a flight home while it was still daylight made it feel like more than a one-day breather.

“Yesterday for me it was more mentally just trying to detach, get away,” Hart said. “My wife and I got pedicures, so that was nice. It was relaxing. Yesterday for me, it was more mental, so I just got away from the game. Forgot I was a basketball player. I was just a regular guy. Just a husband, dad, and just had a good day.”

But the Knicks still need more than just good vibes or the crowd to get the thought of Sunday’s loss out of their minds. Brunson has been hampered since injuring his right foot in Game 2 of the series. He sat out most of the first half in that game and returned to help lift the Knicks to a win. But in the two games in Indiana he did not appear to have the same mobility and lift that he has had all season long.

Brunson reiterated his mantra Tuesday morning, saying, “I’m good,” even as it’s easy to see he’s been limited. But Brunson was going to play regardless, as was Isaiah Hartenstein, who suffered a shoulder injury in Game 4.

And maybe that’s what the Knicks were bringing to the fans back in New York after the ugly loss — one more night of fighting against the odds.

“This is a team that’s fought through injury after injury,” Hart said. “We don’t quit. That’s something that we expect from our fans, even after a 30-point loss. We expect them to be there and give us energy and have passion and passion in the mix. So that’s something I’ll tell them, just to continue to rock with us during this journey. And we’re going to give it our all.”


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