O’Neal, Pacers Squeak Past Knicks
Indiana 102, New York 96
NEW YORK, Dec. 17 (Ticker) -- Jermaine O'Neal played very smart basketball down the stretch. He was joined by Jamaal Tinsley and rookie Danny Granger.
O'Neal scored a season-high 31 points as the Indiana Pacers escaped Madison Square Garden with a 102-96 victory over the struggling New York Knicks, who have dropped a season-high six straight games.
Granger rejected Stephon Marbury's layup, leading to two free throws by Tinsley. O'Neal and Tinsley ran a perfect pick-and-roll, setting up O'Neal's two-handed tomahawk jam that gave the Pacers the lead for good at 95-94 lead with 1:56 left.
"That was drawn up in the timeout," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said. "We got a little fortunate that they didn't do a great job with the coverage. That was a real huge play because it was so hard for Jermaine all night to get open looks around the basket."
"To tell you the truth, that was an OK play," said O'Neal, who made 9-of-21 shots. "I was more impressed with the way we stayed together. I think we built character."
The Knicks trailed 99-96 with 38 seconds to go, when Marbury had the ball stolen by Pacers rookie Sarunas Jasikevicius. At the other end, O'Neal found Austin Croshere cutting to the basket for a reverse layup and a five-point lead with 15 seconds remaining.
"That is part of the game," Marbury said. "Things like that happen. I was trying to make a basketball play."
"It was real big," Tinsley said. "We just tried to capitalize on it."
Granger scored a season-high 12 points and was a big spark in the fourth quarter, blocking three shots and hitting two 3-pointers. He played the entire second half after after swingman Stephen Jackson injured his thumb.
"We just decided (Jackson) wasn't going to be able to go on and so Grange got an opportunity," Carlisle said. "He was real active, played both positions really effectively. He hit big shots and made some enormous defensive plays. So he had a great game."
"Danny Granger was the key to our success tonight," O'Neal said. "That's what we need. We need everyone to compete on both ends of the court."
In just his second game since missing seven contests with a quadriceps injury, Tinsley had 23 points and seven assists and Jasikevicius scored 18 points, making four 3-pointers.
"The guy's been out seven or eight games and in the second night of back-to-backs plays over 40 minutes," Carlisle said. "He had a huge game with no turnovers."
"Having back-to-back games is tough," Tinsley said. "But we take care of business whether it be at home or on the road. Tonight I think we did a great job overall."
The strong collective effort led to Indiana's fourth win in its last five games and its first in four tries in the second of back-to-backs.
For the Knicks, it was their closest margin of defeat this week. After blowout losses at home to Milwaukee and Orlando and an 11-point loss at Atlanta, they took a 73-71 lead entering the fourth quarter.
But New York missed its final six shots en route to its 17th loss in 23 games under first-year coach Larry Brown.
Marbury scored 25 points for the Knicks, who have lost four consecutive home games. Jamal Crawford added 15 off the bench and Richardson 12.
"I never accept losing," Brown said. "It's killing me. I feel bad for our fans. I feel bad for our team and ownership for the responsibility they gave me."