Indiana (10-22) at New York (13-20)

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  • Game info: 6:00 pm EST Sun Jan 3, 2010
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Whatever message New York Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was trying to deliver to Nate Robinson(notes) by benching him for 14 games worked for at least one night.

Coming off a season-high 41-point effort, Robinson is expected to be back in D’Antoni’s rotation Sunday night when the Knicks host the Indiana Pacers.

After averaging career bests with 17.2 points and 4.1 assists in 2008-09, Robinson has played in fewer than half of New York’s games this season. The fifth-year guard also was fined $25,000 by the NBA on Monday after his agent requested that the team trade Robinson.

With the Knicks (13-20) stuck in a 1-3 slide, D’Antoni gave Robinson his first playing time since Dec. 1 in Friday’s game in Atlanta.

“I was just real, real nervous,” Robinson said after handing out eight assists and hitting 18 of 24 shots in the 112-108 overtime victory. “I was just going to do everything he asked me to do.”

Robinson also backtracked from his agent’s comments. D’Antoni offered an explanation for sitting the 5-foot-9 slam dunk champion.

“We’ve just been trying to get (Nate) focused on winning, and he obviously was focused on that tonight,” said D’Antoni, whose team went 8-6 with Robinson benched.

Robinson averages only 11.8 points versus the Pacers, but came off the bench to score 41 against them in a 123-119 win on Feb. 23 at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks will try to avoid a third straight home loss after winning a season-high six in a row there. They’ll focus on an Indiana team that’s looking for consecutive wins for the first time since Dec. 11-12.

The Pacers (10-22) snapped their eight-game slide Saturday with a 122-111 victory over Minnesota. Earl Watson(notes) and A.J. Price(notes) combined for 20 points, 15 assists and just two of Indiana’s season-low nine turnovers in place of benched starter T.J. Ford(notes).

“We’ve got good point guards,” Luther Head(notes) said of Watson and Price. “We’ve just got to play off of them. When we do that, we’re a tough team.”

Head and Roy Hibbert(notes) each scored 21 as the Pacers set a season high in points.

Indiana, 3-5 in the second game of back-to-backs, will try to snap a six-game road losing streak with its eighth victory in 10 visits to MSG. In their only game in New York this season, the Pacers held the Knicks without a field goal for the last 9-plus minutes in a 101-89 win on Nov. 4.

Robinson missed that game for New York with a sprained ankle. Danny Granger(notes) led Indiana with 21 points, but is still nursing a heel injury. The Pacers are 5-10 without the All-Star forward.

Troy Murphy(notes), the Pacers second-leading scorer and leading rebounder, also sat out that contest and a 110-103 loss to the visiting Knicks on Nov. 18 due to a bruised lower back. He could be sidelined for a second straight game Sunday with a sprained left ankle.

Rookie Tyler Hansbrough(notes) is also questionable after missing the last three games with an inner ear infection. Hansbrough had 14 points and five boards in the most recent matchup.

David Lee(notes), among the league leaders with 17 double-doubles, is averaging 21.2 points and 13.6 boards in his last five games versus Indiana.

Hibbert, though, could make Lee’s job a little more difficult. The second-year center is averaging 21.0 points and 8.7 boards in his last three contests.

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Sunday, Jan 3