Marbury scored 21 points and had a strong defensive game in the resurgent Knicks’ 90-79 victory over the Pacers on Saturday night.
“We’re playing defense,” Marbury said. “That’s the big difference. And not only did we get stops, but we made baskets, too.”
“Tonight, I thought we played good defense for the most part,” said coach Herb Williams, 6-12 since taking over the team following Lenny Wilkens’ resignation. “More than anything else, the guys are playing with a lot more confidence.”
Jermaine O’Neal led the Pacers with 24 points and nine rebounds.
The Pacers, playing without Jeff Foster (back spasms) and Jamaal Tinsley (bruised left foot), were coming off a 106-82 home victory over Cleveland on Friday night—their fifth straight victory and eighth in 10 games.
“It was a lack of energy,” O’Neal said. “They beat us to loose balls. They beat us on second-chance rebounds. They just beat us all around.”
O’Neal took a hard shot in the left side defending Marbury with about a minute left in the game, but X-rays showed that he did not break any ribs.
“I’m a little bruised right now,” O’Neal said. “I’ll spit on it and rub it down when I get home.”
Retiring Indiana star Reggie Miller, playing his second-to-last game at Madison Square Garden, scored eight of his 14 points in the first quarter.
“We didn’t come out with any of the energy that allowed us to win five games in a row,” Miller said. “I felt we were always backpedalling tonight.”
New York newcomers Malik Rose and Maurice Taylor each scored two points. Rose, acquired from San Antonio on Thursday, played 9 minutes, and Taylor, who also joined the Knicks on Thursday in a deadline deal with Houston, saw 5 minutes of action.
“I was a little nervous,” Rose said. “I didn’t want to go there and make too many mistakes with this New York crowd.”
Taylor gave the Knicks a 73-60 lead with his lone basket early in the fourth quarter, and Crawford made it 82-66 with a 3-pointer with 4:33 to go.
“We could never get enough momentum to really challenge them,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “You have to give New York credit.”
In the first half, Thomas had 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting to help the Knicks take a 47-37 lead. Crawford added 10 points, and O’Neal led the Pacers with 12.
The Knicks (23-33) are 5-4 in their last nine games.
“It’s a great feeling,” Penny Hardaway said. “That slump we went through was awful.”
The Knicks and Pacers will meet twice more this season, at Madison Square Garden on April 5 and in Indianapolis on April 10. In their first game of the season, Indiana beat New York 103-97 on Nov. 13 in Indianapolis. … Rose wore No. 13, and Taylor No. 2. … Radio star Howard Stern and girlfriend Beth Ostrosky sat courtside. Actors Matt Dillon, Matthew Modine and Ken Olin also were in the crowd.