INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—Mike Dunleavy doesn’t know why he keeps scoring 36 points in his best game, though he’s not complaining.
“It’s my lucky roulette number,” he joked. “I don’t know what that means, I don’t know what to say about that. It’s better than a career-high of six or something like that.”
Dunleavy had a chance to set a new career mark, but he shot an airball on a 3-pointer in the final minute. Indiana coach Jim O’Brien likes the bottom line— the Pacers have won all four games in which Dunleavy has reached that magic number.
“If he scores 36 points 50 more times in his career, that’s fine with me,” O’Brien said.
Dunleavy has scored at least 30 points five times in his past 13 games, and the Pacers are 7-1 this season when he does so.
It was the second time Dunleavy has scored 36 points against the Knicks this season. He has averaged 30 points in three games, all wins, against New York.
“Dunleavy has really had it going against us the whole season,” New York guard Jamal Crawford said.
So has the entire Indiana team. The Pacers have averaged 111 points against the Knicks.
Dunleavy is driven by the fact that the Pacers are within reach of the eighth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s all motivated and pushed by the desire to make the postseason,” he said. “These last 15 games, I’ll do anything in my power to get this team in the postseason.”
As important as Dunleavy’s scoring was, Indiana’s defense might have played a bigger role in the win. The Pacers held the Knicks to 37 percent shooting and held an opponent under 100 points for the first time since the All-Star break.
“The defense is way more important than our offense,” Granger said. “We can score the ball. It comes down to stopping people, keeping them in front of us and rebounding.”
Indiana led 60-56 at halftime, but Chandler’s 3-pointer tied the game at 68 midway through the third quarter. The Knicks took a 72-70 lead on a putback by Chandler.
Dunleavy scored nine points in the final 2:35 of the quarter to help the Pacers lead 81-79 at the end of the period.
Granger scored nine points during a 14-5 run that gave the Pacers a 98-89 lead.
Minutes later, Dunleavy provided the play of the game. While driving through traffic to the hoop, he wrapped the ball behind his back and threw up a left-handed floater from the baseline that dropped to give Indiana a 102-91 lead. The basket gave Dunleavy the points to match his career high.
“We came out, hit our shots and got the stops we needed,” Granger said. “Even when they responded, we responded back with two or three buckets. It was what we needed.”
Granger had 15 points and four rebounds in the fourth quarter.
“I think that’s the sign of a guy that’s trying to lead,” O’Brien said. “He picked it up to another level offensively and defensively.”
Meanwhile, New York again faltered when it mattered. The Knicks shot 33 percent and were outrebounded 20-11 in the fourth quarter.
New York’s starters only played a combined 19 minutes in the final period while coach Isiah Thomas featured younger players. The starters made no excuses for their backups, instead giving Indiana credit for taking advantage.
“They came up with winning plays,” Crawford said. “I thought they had some great hustle plays and they hit some big shots and we couldn’t catch up with them.”
New York C Eddy Curry had successful arthroscopic surgery on his right knee today to remove torn cartilage. Recovery time is approximately four to six weeks. … The Knicks wore green uniforms in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. Indiana wore its alternate gold uniforms instead of its usual home whites. … Former Pacers G Fred Jones was cheered when he entered the game for the Knicks in the first quarter. … Dunleavy scored 16 points in the first quarter to help the Pacers take a 38-32 lead. … Indiana C David Harrison left in the second quarter with a left knee contusion and did not return.