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- Indiana Pacers
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By The Sports Xchange January 10, 2013 11:00 PM
INDIANAPOLIS -- The Indiana Pacers are making believers out of their doubters. The Pacers picked up their ninth straight home victory, beating the New York Knicks 81-76 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Thursday. Over the past 11 days, Indiana has beaten the Memphis Grizzlies, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and now the Knicks, all teams expected to make or compete for a playoff spot. Paul George continued to cement his spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team. The Pacers' third-year forward scored 24 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Ian Mahinmi came off the bench to contribute 13 points and six rebounds for the Pacers, who trail the Knicks by only 1 1/2 games for the second seed in the East. New York's J.R. Smith scored a game-high 25 points. The Knicks played All-Star forward without Carmelo Anthony, who served a one-game suspension for attempting to confront the Boston Celtics' Kevin Garnett after Monday's game. The Pacers thought they got some breathing room in the third quarter when they built an 11-point lead, but Smith brought the Knicks back and gave them a two-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Indiana locked up New York's offense in the fourth quarter. The Knicks were held to 16 points in the final period. The first half was far from a thing of beauty. Neither team led by more than eight points, and neither team shot better than 36 percent from the field. The Pacers seemed to let playing on national television for the first time this season get to them early in the game. The Knicks jumped out to a seven-point lead midway through the first quarter. The Pacers bounced back and closed the period on 12-3 run to take a 16-14 lead into the second. The Pacers -- again -- closed out another quarter on a surge. This time they pushed their lead up to eight points before Jason Kidd made a 3-pointer in the final seconds to cut Indiana's advantage to 39-34 at the half. George was brutal offensively in the first half. He only had seven points on 2-of-9 shooting, but he did grab six rebounds. Smith wasn't much better for New York. The gunner had eight points on 3-of-11 shooting in the half. NOTES: Chris Copeland started in Anthony's place, and he scored eight points in 22 minutes. ... George Hill returned to the starting lineup for the Pacers after sitting out the fourth quarter of Tuesday's game against the Miami Heat and missing practice Wednesday due to bronchitis. Hill finished with six points. ... Pacers coach Frank Vogel said forward Danny Granger, out all season with a knee injury, is still on schedule to return to the lineup later this month or in early February. ... TNT analyst Reggie Miller, who spent his entire 18-year career with the Pacers, called an Indiana game on television for only the second time. The other time was on Thanksgiving 2005. "Working with Dick Stockton," the Hall of Famer recalled of his play-by-play partner. The Pacers showed a video tribute to Miller during a timeout in the first quarter.