New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) shoots between Indiana...

New York Knicks guard Miles McBride (2) shoots between Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, left, and center Myles Turner (33) during the first half of Game 6 in an NBA basketball second-round playoff series, Friday, May 17, 2024, in Indianapolis. Credit: AP/Michael Conroy

Forget all the sports cliches about playing a Game 7.

Stop thinking that Sunday’s Eastern Conference semifinal game at Madison Square Garden is a defining moment for this Knicks team.

Plug your ears when some broadcaster mentions “the moment of truth.”

Forget about the notion that this is where the Knicks show what they are really made of.

The Knicks already have shown this season what they are made of, big time. And that, more than anything, should give their fans hope that they can beat the Indiana Pacers in front of their home crowd in Sunday’s Game 7.

With their “next man up” mentality, the Knicks have found themselves in a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden for the first time in 29 years. They have gotten there despite being without starters Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson and OG Anunoby and top reserve Bojan Bogdanovic for their last four games.

The Knicks have shown incredible resilience throughout the season and the playoffs, most recently bouncing back from a 32-point loss in Game 4 of this series for a 30-point win in Game 5 at the Garden.

The Knicks have proved that a little guard like Jalen Brunson can be the kind of big-time player whom you can build a team around. Brunson not only can bounce back from a subpar game to drop 40-plus on an opponent, he is the kind of leader who can convince others that they can give more, play harder than they ever have in their careers.

All five of the Knicks’ current starters — Brunson, Josh Hart, Donte DiVincenzo, Isaiah Hartenstein, Deuce McBride — had career-best seasons.

And, perhaps the hardest task of all, the Knicks have won over the most jaded fan base in sports, bringing together competing generations of Knicks fans in a way that perhaps no other Knicks team ever has. Your Phil Jackson-loving grandfather, your Patrick Ewing loyalist, your Harvard grad still pouting about their failure to re-sign Jeremy Lin — all of them have elbowed their way onto this team’s bandwagon.

With their deep pockets and rabid devotion, Knicks fans are expected to make this Game 7 one of the most expensive tickets in playoff history. On Saturday afternoon, the least expensive ticket available on TickPick was $615.

The attraction, of course, is the chance to witness history; the Knicks haven’t been to a conference final since 2000. A win Sunday officially would end all those years of dysfunction and misery.

A whole generation of Knicks fans has never seen anything like this. A whole generation of Knicks fans can’t remember what it was like to see their city seem to hold its breath for 2 1⁄2 hours on a spring afternoon. A whole generation of Knicks fans can’t remember a game with this much on the line being played at Madison Square Garden.

And neither can the Knicks’ players.

Hart is the only current starter who was alive the last time the Knicks played a Game 7 at Madison Square Garden — and you can bet he doesn’t recall much, given that he had just turned two months old before the most recent home Game 7, when the Pacers beat the Knicks, 97-95, in the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals.

Hart was listed as questionable for Game 7 after suffering an abdominal injury in Game 6. There also seems to be a chance that Anunoby, who has been out since suffering a hamstring injury in Game 2, will be able to rejoin the team. He was upgraded to questionable Saturday night.

Physically, the Knicks will have to play with what they have. Mentally and emotionally, they are built for games like this. After the loss in Indiana, every Knick in the locker room spoke about embracing the challenge of closing out the series in front of their fans at home.

“This is what you live for. It’s why you sign up with the Knicks,” DiVincenzo said. “Come home, play in front of the Garden, Game 7. It’s gonna be rocking, and that’s what we love.”

The Knicks won their last five games of the regular season to earn the No. 2 seed and be guaranteed home-court advantage through the first two rounds of the playoffs. The home team has won every game of this series, a pattern the Knicks hope will be repeated, but coach Tom Thibodeau knows it will take more than playing at home.

“You’re not going to win just because you’re at home,” he said. “You have to put the work into it . . . This is it. Hard-fought, competitive. Oftentimes it comes down to a hustle play, a loose ball, whatever it might be, and so you’re gonna get tested physically, mentally, emotionally, and you’ve gotta be able to get through all that, and so whatever it is that we’re facing, we can overcome. Just keep battling.”  

For at least one more game.


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