The Pacers snapped a five-game losing streak with a 111-103 victory over Toronto on Wednesday, with Johnson starting in place of an injured Tinsley. Carlisle, though, felt now would be the best time for Johnson to replace Tinsley in the starting five, and said Johnson would have started Friday even if Tinsley was healthy.
Tinsley missed the game with a strained Achilles’ tendon.
“This is not to single out Jamaal,” Carlisle said. “I went back and looked at our stats, looked at a lot of games, and we were playing better with Jamaal coming off the bench and A.J. starting.”
The Pacers are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, a half-game behind Milwaukee and 1 1/2 ahead of eighth-place Chicago with eight to play. Philadelphia is only two games behind Indiana in ninth.
The Pacers have a soft remaining schedule, with two more games against the Knicks and only one against a winning team, Detroit.
Despite having that in their favor as they look to secure a playoff berth, Carlisle felt the need to change the lineup. The move, which allows Stephen Jackson to move back to shooting guard, gives the Pacers better offensive flow, in Johnson’s view.
“I thought we played with more confidence, and our defensive pressure helped our offense,” Johnson said after scoring 16 points in the victory over the Raptors. “We were just trying to be more aggressive.”
The Knicks, who will be trying to win consecutive games for just the third time since the All-Star break, are coming off a 96-94 win over Cleveland on Wednesday. Jamal Crawford scored a season-high 37 points and made the winning jumper with 6.4 seconds left for New York, which snapped a nine-game losing streak.
“We want to end this on a good note,” Crawford said. “The season hasn’t really gone like we wanted it to but we have some good young players and some good veterans and a great coach, so I think in time we’ll be good.”
Crawford’s play drew raves from Knicks coach Larry Brown, who before the game said that some of his players had probably stopped listening to him and weren’t playing hard.
“He is the most improved I think player I’ve ever coached,” Brown said. “He does things for our team to please me to a fault.”
The Knicks last won back-to-back games March 15-17 against Atlanta and Detroit.