Reinforcements finally arrived for the injury-ravaged Knicks, and not just the two expected contributors — Bojan Bogdanovic and Alec Burks — they acquired ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.
All-Star point guard Jalen Brunson also was back in the lineup after missing one game with a sprained ankle, but his game-high 39 points were not nearly enough as the still-shorthanded Knicks were dominated inside and lost for the third time in four games, 125-111, to the Pacers on Saturday night at the Garden.
“I thought for the first game there were some obviously good things and obviously there’s a lot for them to adjust to. As a team, I think we have to do a lot better,” Tom Thibodeau said. “We’re shorthanded. We’re going to have to play a lot harder and a lot tougher.
“We’re going to have to count on our defense and our rebounding and one of the few times we’ve been outrebounded all year so we’re going to have to fix that and fix it fast.”
Thibodeau’s team (33-20) shot 31.3 percent (10-for-32) from 3-point range, including a misfiring 2-for-9 by previously sizzling Donte DiVincenzo, and was outrebounded by a 41-32 margin.
Miles Turner (23 points) and Pascal Siakam (19) took advantage of the inside absences of the Knicks’ top three centers — Mitchell Robinson, Isaiah Hartenstein and Jericho Sims — with a combined 17-for-22 shooting night.
All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton finished with 22 points and 12 assists for the Pacers (30-24), who hit 61 percent of their field-goal attempts.
“I think for us right now, we’ve just gotta be better on the rebounding and obviously on the defensive side of the ball,” Brunson said. “They were really comfortable, they shot great all game, and we gotta be better on that side of the ball.”
Burks netted 22 points in 22 minutes but Bogdanovic was held to 11 on 3-for-10 from the floor in 33 minutes — both off the bench — with Taj Gibson joining Precious Achiuwa in the starting frontcourt for the Knicks, who also played once again without Julius Randle and OG Anunoby.
“I felt good, but unfortunately we couldn’t get a W,” Bogdanovic said. “It’s still kind of early for me and [Burks], and maybe gotta learn the set offense, to play a little bit faster in the flow and then defensively like switches and what we are doing.
“It’s gonna take a couple of games, probably. I hope that we’re gonna pick it up quick.”
Having played two seasons previously for the Knicks, Burks already was familiar with the system deployed by Thibodeau, who said the coaching staff provided Bogdanovic “a very basic package” of set plays for his team debut.
Bogdanovich checked in first to huge applause with 4:10 left in the first quarter and the Knicks trailing, 20-19.
DiVincenzo nailed a couple of early 3-pointers, and Brunson sank three driving buckets and got to the free-throw line multiple times for a team-high 10 points in the quarter.
Bogdanovic clanked his first corner 3 attempt, and he also missed a drive to the hoop through traffic before netting his first points as a Knick from the free-throw line to put them up by one, 27-26 through one.
Brunson converted a traditional three-point play and netted 17 in the first half.
Bogdanovic played the entire second quarter and had all 11 of his points by intermission, but Turner paced the Pacers with 16 for a 61-58 halftime deficit for the Knicks.
Siakam drained consecutive 3-pointers to extend the Indiana cushion to eight barely four minutes into the third.
Toppin’s corner triple made it a nine-point game with 4:36 to play, and Haliburton rattled in another trey at the buzzer for a 91-82 lead entering the final period.
Toppin and Andrew Nembhard buried additional buckets from beyond the arc in the opening two minutes of the fourth to push the Knicks’ deficit to 15.
“I just deal with reality. This is what we have and I think we can win with what we have,” Thibodeau said. “So that’s all I think about. Get in there and get it done. There’s no moral victories. Get out there and get it done. If you’re here and you’re on this roster, that means you’re a hell of a player and we can win.”