NEW YORK (AP) — Jalen Brunson scored 44 points, reaching 40 for the fifth time in this postseason, and the New York Knicks moved a win away from their first Eastern Conference finals trip since 2000 by beating the Indiana Pacers 121-91 on Tuesday night in Game 5.

The Knicks rebounded from a blowout loss on Sunday and guaranteed themselves at least one more game at Madison Square Garden in front of their roaring fans who have been aching to see big games in late spring again. Josh Hart had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Deuce McBride scored 17 points after he was inserted into the starting lineup.

The No. 2-seeded Knicks can win the series Friday night at Indiana after the first two-day break between games in the series. Caitlin Clark’s WNBA home debut with the Indiana Fever is scheduled for Thursday night at Gainbridge Fieldhouse.

Game 7, if necessary, would be Sunday afternoon.

Brunson hurt his right foot in Game 2 and was limited to 18 points Sunday, his lowest of the postseason, when the Pacers ran the Knicks off the floor in a 121-89 romp. He kept insisting he was fine and there was no reason to question that Tuesday.

Pulling up quickly for 3-pointers off the dribble or using his series of fakes and spins to set up soft jumpers in the lane, Brunson shot 18 for 35 and again looked like the player who finished fifth this season in MVP voting, not the one who shot 10 for 26 in Game 3 and 6 for 17 on Sunday.

He scored 28 in the first half, a Knicks playoff record, and then put away the game in the fourth with seven straight points, capped by a three-point play that made it 106-86 with 7:57 to go.

Brunson, who scored 43 in Game 1 to become the fourth player in NBA history with four consecutive 40-point games in the playoffs, had plenty of help. Alec Burks, who had been out of the rotation entirely until re-emerging after a rash of injuries, added 18 points off the bench and Isaiah Hartenstein had seven points and 17 rebounds, helping the Knicks overwhelm the Pacers 53-29 on the glass.

Pascal Siakam scored 22 points for the sixth-seeded Pacers, who will try to stay unbeaten at home in the postseason to force the decisive game. Myles Turner added 16 but All-Star Tyrese Haliburton had only 13 after averaging 29.7 over the last three games.

Indiana got off to a strong start and was leading 25-20 before the Knicks surged ahead with an 11-0 run en route to a 38-32 lead after one. Pacers coach Rick Carlisle burned three timeouts in the quarter, the crowd seemingly growing louder with each.

Brunson had consecutive baskets for a 13-point lead early in the second quarter and then had the first basket in a 9-0 run that made it 65-47 with 2:11 remaining.

The Knicks haven’t reached the conference finals since the Pacers beat them in 2000 in the sixth meeting between the teams in eight years. This one had some of that 1990s Knicks-Pacers fierceness in a game featuring five technical fouls.

Isaiah Jackson was called for a foul for a hard pick that knocked Donte DiVincenzo to the court in the first half. Hartenstein walked up and got chest-to-chest with Jackson, and Burks also came in and appeared to bring his hand up and make contact with Jackson. All three players were called for technical fouls.

Later, after DiVincenzo slammed down the miss of Brunson’s jumper, he and Turner got tangled up as DiVincenzo tried to fight through a pick. They then screamed at each other after a foul was called and both were given technical fouls as the crowd chanted DiVincenzo’s name while referees reviewed the play.


DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic celebrated his third NBA MVP award by scoring 40 points and the Denver Nuggets shut down Anthony Edwards in a 112-97 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night. That put the reigning NBA champions one win away from the Western Conference finals.

Jokic also had 13 assists and seven rebounds with no turnovers as the home team won for the first time this semifinal series. Aaron Gordon added 18 points and 10 boards, and Jamal Murray scored 16.

Edwards was held to 18 points on 5-of-15 shooting. Karl Anthony-Towns led the Wolves with 23 points and Rudy Gobert scored 18.

With their first three-game losing streak of the season, the Wolves will have to snap their skid Thursday night at Target Center to force a Game 7 back in Denver.

Jokic, who was presented with his third MVP trophy by commissioner Adam Silver in a pregame ceremony, scored 19 first-half points in leading Denver to a 50-44 lead at the half. He added 16 points in the third quarter when the Nuggets pushed their lead to 14.

Jokic’s dunk with 7:12 left in the fourth gave Denver a 98-80 lead. After the Wolves used a mini-run to pull to 103-92, Jokic nailed a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer over a helpless Gobert, who recently won his fourth NBA Defensive Player of the Year award, to make it a 14-point lead with just over 3 minutes left.

After the Wolves inched ahead 55-53 early in the third quarter, Jokic assisted on four consecutive baskets during Denver’s 11-2 response for a 64-57 lead that would stand the rest of the way.

Edwards averaged 33.3 points in the first four games of the series and the Wolves were looking for somebody else to step up. Although KAT did just that, Edwards missed eight of his first nine shots, had five points at halftime and didn’t find his shooting touch until the game had gotten away from the Timberwolves.

Timberwolves veteran point guard Mike Conley was scratched just before tipoff with a sore right Achilles. He was injured when he missed a 3-pointer on the Wolves’ final possession in their loss on Sunday. Nickeil Alexander-Walker started in his spot and had 14 points and five assists.

Minnesota coach Chris Finch said before the game that the Wolves were looking to add to their rotation whether or not Conley played and he found some time for Monte Morris after Denver’s bench outplayed the Wolves’ reserves in Minneapolis. Morris scored six points.

In his pre-game comments, Finch also expressed dismay at the NBA fining Rudy Gobert $75,000 for making a money gesture following a call by referee Scott Foster in Game 4.


NEW YORK (AP) — Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert was fined $75,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for another “inappropriate and unprofessional gesture” that suggested a lack of integrity with the league and its game officials.

Gobert glanced down and rubbed both thumbs together with his fingers as he walked up the court in frustration over a foul call in the fourth quarter of Minnesota’s loss to Denver in Game 4 of their Western Conference semifinal series on Sunday. Gobert had just been whistled for an offensive foul when the TNT broadcast showed him making the money-counting sign to himself.

Executive vice president of basketball operations Joe Dumars said the fine “took into account Gobert’s history of improper conduct toward game officials.”

Two months ago during a regular season game at Cleveland, Gobert was called for a technical after picking up his sixth foul for making the money-counting gesture. One of the officials saw the taunt that time, and Gobert was later fined $100,000.

After that game, Gobert said he was concerned about the rise of betting and believes gambling is having a detrimental impact on outcomes, implicitly accusing officials of being on the take.

“I’ll be the bad guy,” Gobert said then. “I’ll take the fine, but I think it’s hurting our game. I know the betting and all that is becoming bigger and bigger.”

The officiating crew on Sunday didn’t appear to notice his less-pronounced version, but the league did.



CHICAGO — A few weeks ago, Reed Sheppard was wrestling with a “family decision” far from the stay-or-go variety for college freshmen at the end of the season.

Circumstances and emotions were high. Kentucky head coach John Calipari exited stage left for Arkansas. Replacement Mark Pope just so happened to be a family friend, former Kentucky basketball player and his dad’s college basketball teammate — and roommate — with the Wildcats.

But feedback from the NBA pointed Sheppard in one direction — the draft.

A projected lottery pick with a sweet stroke and the size to score on multiple levels, Sheppard met with Pope and had regular discussions with his parents. Jeff Sheppard played point guard at Kentucky from 1993-98 and was the Most Outstanding Player in the 1998 NCAA Tournament. He left Lexington a two-time national champion. His mother, Stacey (Reed), also played basketball at Kentucky.

Pope, in the midst of a mass roster exodus, says he pushed Reed Sheppard to the draft with both hands because of his place in the pre-draft rankings as a lottery pick and potential top-5 selection.

Reed Sheppard brought a few gifts from his parents with him to the 2024 NBA Draft Combine. Like his dad’s jumping ability.

The younger Sheppard proved what most already knew on Monday with a lights-out shooting performance. Then he surprised more than a few when it came time for vertical jump testing.

“I don’t know if I was really expecting it. They must’ve messed something up,” Sheppard said with a smile. “It was pretty cool seeing the 42 (inches) pop up there.”

Sheppard’s 42-inch vertical, matched by three others on Monday night, was the best recorded by all prospects at the combine. Bronny James (Southern California) posted a notable 40.5-inch vert and Sheppard’s SEC rival, Dalton Knecht (Tennessee), hit 39 inches.

Sheppard, who shot 52 percent from 3-point range in his only season at Kentucky, measured 6-foot-3 and created as much buzz as any player at the combine. ESPN projects him as a top-three pick, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution put him in the mix to be the No. 1 overall pick to the Hawks.

Not a bad platform for a 19-year-old ranked as the fifth-best incoming recruit at Kentucky this time one year ago.

“We haven’t really started to talking to teams yet, but I’m excited. I think that will be a really good experience,” Sheppard said.

Kentucky’s last top-five draft pick was De’Aaron Fox (Sacramento Kings, fifth overall, 2017).

Sheppard’s freshman stats are superior to a one-and-done guard and the 13th pick in the 2015 draft, Devin Booker (Suns).

But Sheppard didn’t want to talk comparisons, or where he could be drafted on Tuesday. Just over five weeks from the 2024 NBA Draft, the line to greet him on draft night appears to be forming starting at the top.

“It’s been an unbelievable week,” Sheppard said. “You watch it growing up and it’s like, ‘Dang, I want to do that. I want to be there.’ Being able to be here is really cool. This week, so far, it’s been unbelievable.”