Knicks 97, Pacers 90
NEW YORK (AP)—Isiah Thomas’ old team ran into his new one, and the team he now runs outplayed the one he formerly coached.
Two of Thomas’ acquisitions, Penny Hardaway and Stephon Marbury, made several big plays down the stretch Tuesday night to lead the New York Knicks past the Pacers 97-90, ending Indiana’s three-game winning streak.
This was a measuring stick game for the Knicks as they try to climb to .500 and qualify for the postseason, and they gave one of their better performances of Thomas’ six-week tenure as team president.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the players, and they played well tonight,” Thomas said. “I have a tremendous amount of respect for the Pacers, they’re a great team.
“It’s a long, long way to go, and our players were great tonight.”
Hardaway had 14 points, including a clinching jumper with 17.2 seconds remaining, and Marbury had 23 points and eight assists.
Artest had 19 points for the Pacers, who were coached by Thomas the past three seasons. Thomas was fired in August by new team president Larry Bird, and this was his former team’s first time playing in his presence since they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
“There wasn’t any talk, but I think we all had it in the back of our minds that this game was extremely important for him—especially with the circumstances that went down in Indiana,” Van Horn said.
Thomas watched the game from his usual spot near the tunnel behind the scorer’s table at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks celebrating at the end of one of their most quality victories of the season.
“We’re going to remember those guys acting like they won the championship,” Indiana’s Jermaine O’Neal said. “Hopefully guys on our team have long memories.”
After Reggie Miller put in a reverse layup to cut Indiana’s deficit to 91-90, Marbury got past Jamaal Tinsley and drew a second defender, leaving Thomas open for an 18-footer that made it 93-90 with 45 seconds left.
Artest missed two free throws with 39.7 seconds left, and New York ran the clock down before Hardaway banked in a 10-footer over Tinsley for a 95-90 lead with 17.2 seconds remaining.
Miller missed a tightly defended 3 from the corner on Indiana’s next possession to end the Pacers’ final hope.
“I knew he (Thomas) wanted this win real badly. We definitely did not want to let him down,” Hardaway said. “I think he wanted to see how we were going to respond to a good team coming in here and see what we were going to do, and I think we stepped up to the challenge.”
Neither team led by more than seven points in a tight first half that ended with New York ahead 47-43 thanks to a 12-0 edge in second-chance points.
Tinsley hit three 3-pointers in the third quarter, the last of which completed a 16-4 run and gave Indiana a 63-57 lead. The Pacers didn’t trail again until Van Horn hit a corner jumper to give New York a 74-73 lead with 9:32 remaining in the fourth quarter.
New York stayed ahead the rest of the way to win its third in a row.
“This is a great feeling. This is what basketball is all about, games likethis,” Van Horn said.
The Knicks placed G Allan Houston (sore knees) on the injured list and signed DerMarr Johnson, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2000 draft, to a 10-day contract. Johnson had been playing with the Long Beach Jam of the ABA and was one of Dennis Rodman’s teammates. “He impressed me, he’s still real strong, active on defense, grabbing a lot of rebounds in not a lot of minutes. I don’t see why anybody wouldn’t want to pick up his defense. I mean, he’s not going to hurt anybody,” said Johnson, who did not play. … Indiana dropped to 7-2 on the road against Atlantic Division teams. … New York lost the previous twogames between the teams this season.