NEW YORK(AP) In another spectacular offensive performance, Nate Robinson's biggest play came with a return to his defensive roots.
Robinson scored a season-high 41 points, including the tiebreaking layup with 26 seconds left, and the New York Knicks beat the short-handed Indiana Pacers 123-119 Monday night.
Robinson scored 32 in the second half and matched Bob McAdoo's franchise record for most points in a game by a reserve. His final bucket came when he picked off an errant pass, just as he did twice in 2002 when he played for the University of Washington as a defensive back.
"That interception definitely would have been for six to the house,'' Robinson said. "Would have got a flag for celebrating, but it's OK.''
He kept the celebration going after the game, giving actor Will Ferrell, whom he befriended last year and was sitting courtside, the green jersey he wore to win the slam dunk jersey at All-Star weekend. That's just one of the highlights of a month that has seen Robinson score 30 or more points four times in the last six games.
"He's been on a dramatic tear since the All-Star break and he had another great performance,'' Indiana's Jarrett Jack said.
Al Harrington added 27 points and David Lee had 20 points and 13 rebounds for the Knicks. helping the Knicks pull out a game against a team that was missing most of its best players.
"That should have been a game that we should have won handily tonight with them having their two best players out, but any time you keep it close like that they have some shotmakers on their team,'' said Lee, who had his 20th straight double-double. "So it was too close for comfort tonight, but I'm just glad we got a win.''
Jack scored a season-high 33 points and Marquis Daniels matched a season best with 28 for the Pacers, who had won two in a row overall and four in a row at Madison Square Garden. They fell to 4-2 when playing without both All-Star Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy.
The Knicks led for most of the fourth quarter but couldn't contain Jack, who had his previous season high here last month when he capped a 29-point performance with the winning jumper with 0.9 seconds left. Indiana had the ball in the front court and a chance for the lead, but Jeff Foster threw away an inbounds pass and Robinson tracked it down before streaking in for a layup and a 121-119 lead.
"I was in trouble getting open,'' Jack said. "Jeff thought someone was going one way and he threw it up there and (Robinson) was able to get the steal.
Troy Murphy, who had 19 points and 21 rebounds, traveled on the next possession, and Robinson knocked down a pair of free throws for the final margin.
The Pacers were already without Granger (torn right foot tendon) and Dunleavy, who coach Jim O'Brien said he expects will miss the rest of the season with an injured right knee. Then they were forced to go without point guard T.J. Ford, who was expected to play but couldn't because of the flu.
"I thought we played a very spirited game, played with a lot of guts,'' O'Brien said. "We were missing three starters. We played well enough to win on the road, we just didn't pull it out at the end.''
The Knicks couldn't take advantage for most of the game, looking sluggish a day after a loss in Toronto. They eventually pulled it out behind Robinson, playing the best basketball of his career in the last couple of weeks, and surpassed last season's total with their 24th victory.
New York led by three after one quarter and was ahead 37-30 midway through the second. But Daniels, who also had been feeling sick, scored 10 points in the period as the Pacers tied it at 51 at halftime.
Larry Hughes continued a miserable start to his Knicks career by missing all five shots in the first half. After going 1-for-9 for three points in 16 minutes Sunday in a loss at Toronto, he had a corner jumper hit the side of the backboard, and threw up an air ball on another jumper. Acquired Thursday at the trade deadline, he was already hearing boos by late in the second quarter, and the boos resumed when he checked in again in the third.
He finally made a field goal when he broke out alone for a layup after an Indiana turnover with 1:36 left in the period, then nailed a 3-pointer with 52 seconds remaining for a 90-85 lead. Robinson added one 24 seconds later, and the Knicks led 93-87 heading to the fourth quarter.
Robinson's four-point play gave the Knicks a 10-point lead in the opening minute of the quarter, but the Pacers quickly got back in it behind five points in a row from Jack.
Notes: Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni will miss practice Tuesday to attend an arbitration hearing regarding Stephon Marbury's grievance against the team. The Knicks suspended Marbury for a game and fined him nearly $400,000 in November after claiming he refused to play with the team short-handed. Marbury contends he preferred not to play but never said he wouldn't. ... New York was without Quentin Richardson (sore right Achilles' tendon).