Jalen Brunson was emotional after a night which saw him being voted a first-time All-Star before leading the New York Knicks to a comeback win.
The Knicks overcame the loss of two starters again to rally for their ninth straight NBA victory, 109-105 over the Indiana Pacers, with Brunson pouring in 40 points hours after getting his All-Star nod.
Brunson scored 11 points in the fourth quarter to help win a game in which the Knicks had trailed by 15 points.
He shook off an eye injury late in the game and made a driving layup with 1:46 remaining to give the Knicks the lead for good on Thursday.
Donte DiVincenzo added 20 points, Miles McBride had 16 off the bench and Isaiah Hartenstein contributed 12 points and 19 rebounds for New York, which was again without starters Julius Randle and OG Anunoby, with Mitchell Robinson and Quentin Grimes also out.
The Knicks, coming off a 14-2 January, have won nine in a row for the first time since a 13-game run in 2013 and moved to within a half-game of the Milwaukee Bucks for second place in the Eastern Conference standings before they host the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday.
But this night was about Brunson, who continued his spectacular season and was serenaded with MVP chants at Madison Square Garden.
"It was really cool, the whole experience, the night, how we won and obviously what happened before the game," said Brunson.
"You always work for certain moments, but you never know how to react when they happen.
"So it was special. When the game's going, you're focused and when it's over you kind of relax and realize what's going on.
"It's definitely different at that point. So, really thankful for the fans and what they've done for myself, my family and this team."
the vibes are immaculate pic.twitter.com/g4b19FTI4S— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) February 2, 2024
Brunson’s exploits meant the Pacers had a three-game winning streak snapped despite Jalen Smith scoring 22 points and Aaron Nesmith having 17.
Asked about Brunson’s growth, Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said: "It's surreal. Each step of the way, there's always been naysayers, and he always proves them wrong.
"You just love his competitiveness and he never goes away."
DiVincenzo is getting used to praising Brunson in his post-game interviews, smiling to reporters that he was not sure what else he could say.
"He did exactly what everybody expects him to do and what he has been doing all season long," added DiVincenzo.
"The dude is an All-Star. He's having an MVP-caliber season right now. He should be the player of the month this month.
"What else can I say? The dude's doing everything he possibly can for us to win games. It's not easy right now with Julius going down, OG going down, Mitch not being here.
"Everything's been thrown against us and he's still willing us to win games."
While the Knicks have a day to prepare for their big clash with the Lakers, Indiana (27-22) is straight back in action at home against the Sacramento Kings on Friday.