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Knicks welcome Jackson by harpooning Pacers

Updated: 2014-03-21 08:46
By Associated Press in New York ( China Daily)

Long after Phil Jackson acknowledged the cheering fans with a thumbs-up and then a wave, there was one more standing ovation inside Madison Square Garden on Wednesday night.

It went to the Knicks - a far cry from the way they were treated at home earlier this season.

Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points as the Knicks opened the Jackson era by beating the Indiana Pacers 92-86 for their season-high seventh straight victory.

With new team president Jackson watching from a midcourt seat, New York dominated the first half then pulled away after the Eastern Conference leaders finally got untracked in the second.

"With a guy like that around it creates a winning mentality, it creates an atmosphere that is pretty golden and we have got to capitalize on that," said Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire.

Fans stood for Jackson in the first quarter and were on their feet again in the final minute to watch the Knicks beat the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.

"There is energy in the city. Bringing Phil back is huge for this franchise I think," coach Mike Woodson said.

"But I have got to give a lot of credit to those guys in the room too, because they are battling. We have dug a hole and we are trying to dig our way out of that hole."

Lance Stephenson had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and failed to extend their three-game lead over the Miami Heat, who lost to Boston earlier on Wednesday.

Roy Hibbert scored 20 on 8-of-10 shooting, but All-Star Paul George missed all six first-quarter shots and finished four for 17, with 17 points.

"We haven't grown our IQ as a team into improvising when teams try to throw little wrenches into our offense and that is where we have got to grow offensively," George said.

New York's previous six wins had all come against non-playoff teams, but this was against a squad that seemingly had returned to form after dropping a season-worst four in a row.

"The teams that we play, we feel like they are in our way. That is our motto right now. They are in our way and we don't want to let nothing stop us," Anthony said.

Stoudemire added 21 points and Tyson Chandler grabbed 14 rebounds for the Knicks, who are 16-20 at home and four games behind Atlanta for the final East playoff spot.

Jackson met with coaches and players beforehand, then watched the game from a seat above center court, receiving loud applause when he was shown on the overhead screen during a first-quarter timeout.

The 11-time champion as a coach also was on the Knicks' only two title-winning teams as a player, and there was a palpable energy in the building during what has been a hugely disappointing season until recent days.

(China Daily 03/21/2014 page23)