Knicks lose Josh Hart in Game 6 loss: ‘I guess you can just add it to the list’

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INDIANAPOLIS — Donte DiVincenzo knows this feeling too well. The status of another New York Knicks player is now uncertain.

Josh Hart joined New York’s least exclusive club Friday, when he left a 116-103 loss to the Indiana Pacers early with what the team called “abdominal soreness.” The man who has been the Knicks’ most indestructible force amid a season of attrition is now one of the squad’s walking wounded — and the injury comes with the group’s life on the line.

“You never wanna see anybody get hurt, but it’s been our season,” DiVincenzo said. “We have more than enough, whoever’s on the court. I’ve said it 100 times.”

A hundred does not feel like hyperbole.

During just this playoff run, DiVincenzo has watched Bojan Bogdanović and Mitchell Robinson go down with season-ending injuries. OG Anunoby has missed the past four games with a hamstring strain and there’s no sign of his imminent return. Jalen Brunson has departed and returned from a foot ailment.

Now there’s Hart, whose injury occurred during a potential closeout game that could have propelled the Knicks to the Eastern Conference finals. Instead, it ended with the Pacers forcing a Game 7 in their second-round playoff series.

“I guess you can just add it to the list,” Brunson said.

It’s a list that continues to grow — and one the Knicks can’t harp on with everything to lose.

Game 7 will tip off at 3:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, only 40 hours after Game 6 ended. The last time the Knicks had a quick turnaround, last weekend’s Game 4 matinee, the Pacers rocked them by 32.

They will hope for better fortune this time. Come out flat, and they won’t come out again until autumn.

It’s unclear if Hart will be there with them.

Other than an in-game alert classifying the injury as “abdominal soreness,” the Knicks have been mum on his health. Head coach Tom Thibodeau said “we’ll see” when asked how Hart was recovering. The team did not make Hart, who was moving gingerly when he departed the arena, available to reporters after the game.

Brunson, who has known Hart since college, says he assumes his longtime teammate will play.

“It’s Game 7,” Brunson said.

Isaiah Hartenstein conveyed a similar vibe.

“Just knowing him, he’ll do whatever to play. If his leg’s not falling off I can probably say he’ll probably play,” Hartenstein said. “I haven’t talked to him. We’ll see. It’s hard. He’s done so much for us this season.”

Hart was the one Knicks player who seemed immune to New York’s epidemic. He has played more than any other NBA player during the postseason. At one point, he reeled off a stretch of five playoff games in which he averaged more than 48 minutes.

He’s often the first gunner to loose balls, the embodiment of a team whose grit composes its overlying identity. He’s the size of a shooting guard but is starting at power forward because the Knicks, missing four of their top five frontcourt players, are so depleted.

He has averaged 14.9 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists over 42.6 minutes during the playoffs.

Hart got hurt chasing after a rebound early in the first quarter of Game 6. He asked out, a rare (if not unprecedented) act, only five minutes into the period, holding his left side. Head athletic trainer Anthony Goenaga met him at the end of the bench, testing out his torso. Hart returned at the end of the period but was grabbing at the afflicted area throughout his time on the court.

Come the second half, Hart returned with kinesio tape on the left part of his abdomen. The Knicks ruled him out of the game during the fourth quarter.

“There’s a lot of things obviously that physically don’t go our way with our team this year,” Brunson said. “I think our main focus is whoever we have out there, regardless of what you’re dealing with or anything — if you are out there, you are ready to go. Yes, Josh asked to come back out, but he went back in and gives everything he has. What more can you ask for from a teammate? Knowing the situation, we’re just going to have each other’s backs.”

But the Knicks have basketball issues to clean up. Injuries aside, the Pacers outplayed them Friday.

A game after New York eviscerated them on the boards, Indiana was the one that controlled the glass. Brunson rocked the Pacers for 44 points in Game 5, but they held him in check three days later. The All-Star point guard began Friday just 2-of-13 from the field and had only 5 points at the half, though he finished with 31. Most of those buckets came with the Knicks already down double digits.

Life will be even more difficult for the Knicks if they don’t have Hart on Sunday.

Thibodeau said Friday that Anunoby was still unable to run, implying that he is far off from a return, though the Knicks have not technically ruled him out for Game 7. If Hart can’t go, then half of the rotation they began the playoffs with (Hart, Anunoby, Bogdanović and Robinson) could miss the organization’s biggest moment in decades.

The Knicks are one win away from the Eastern Conference finals, which they have not reached in 24 years. The last time MSG hosted a Game 7 was May 21, 1995, when they lost to the same franchise they will face Sunday.

If Hart and Anunoby cannot go, then Thibodeau could have to reach to Jericho Sims just to field a paltry seven-man rotation: Brunson, DiVincenzo, Hartenstein, Miles “Deuce” McBride, Precious Achiuwa and Alec Burks.

Of course, the Knicks are not thinking so pessimistically.

They’ve experienced injury after injury. They’ve watched Hart sustain bruises. The intensity of this playoff run, which has included a six-game nail-biter against the Philadelphia 76ers and now a seven-gamer in Round 2, must be as exhausting emotionally as it’s been physically.

Hart may play in Game 7 or not. But for the Knicks, this is just another day at the office.

“If you get too focused in to that, it’s going to be hard to get through,” Hartenstein said. “What we’ve been focusing on is day by day, just trusting the process. Yeah, it’s not easy, but we just have to keep pushing.”

(Photo of Josh Hart attempting to shoot over Myles Turner: Dylan Buell / Getty Images)

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