Pacers 106, Knicks 93
NEW YORK (AP)
Tyler Hansbrough knows he has doubters, his old coach perhaps among them.
He's getting a chance now, and the Indiana Pacers hope his hard work can get them into the playoffs.
''I don't know if he's trying to prove anything, I just think he has a motor that is really unparalleled in this league,'' interim coach Frank Vogel said. ''Nobody goes harder than that kid. Nobody in the league plays harder than Tyler Hansbrough.''
Hansbrough scored a career-high 29 points, Dahntay Jones added 18 in place of leading scorer Danny Granger, and the Pacers snapped a six-game losing streak with a 106-93 victory over the New York Knicks on Sunday night.
Though a former college player of the year during a decorated career at North Carolina, Hansbrough was expected to be a late first-round pick because of doubts over how he could transition to the NBA. The Pacers took him 13th in the 2009 draft, but he sat out much of his rookie season after a summer shin injury, and coach Jim O'Brien wasn't giving the forward heavy minutes this season before he was fired in January.
Vogel has made Hansbrough a starter and he's responded with four straight games of 20 or more points.
''I got a chip on my shoulder,'' Hansbrough said. ''A lot of people don't feel like I deserve to be in the league, the coach didn't play me in the past because I don't know why, so I come in the gym every day, try to get a little better and prove a point.''
Darren Collison added 16 points for the Pacers, who were in control all night and moved back into a tie with Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Roy Hibbert had 12 points, eight rebounds and five blocked shots.
Hibbert bottled up Amare Stoudemire a number of times on drives to the basket and Jones did solid job defending and frustrating Carmelo Anthony in the opener of a home-and-home series.
''Our goal was to not let them try to get a run and it worked tonight, so we have to face this beast again and hopefully we can try to do some of the same things,'' Jones said.
Stoudemire scored 28 points for the Knicks, who lost their second straight. Anthony added 25 but shot just 9 for 22.
''The rhythm's not there. I don't know if it's the attention to details, the energy, but it just wasn't right. We were off-kilter in our offense,'' Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni said. ''Defensively, it looked like we wanted to try to do it, almost like when you're in quicksand, they start kicking and they go down faster. They just weren't solid with anything.''
New York had Chauncey Billups back in the lineup after he missed six games with a bruised left thigh, but both he and the Knicks' offense were a step slow. He had nine points and shot 4 of 14, while reserve Toney Douglas, who played well starting in Billups' place, missed his first nine shots and finished with three points on 1-of-12 shooting.
Despite the Pacers' skid, Vogel said before the game he was ''encouraged'' by how hard his players had been working, saying he believed the worst was behind them. The Pacers rewarded his confidence, dominating the game on both ends despite missing the 20.6 points per game from Granger, who had the flu. Indiana shot 57 percent and held New York to 37 percent.
The Pacers will go for the home-and-home sweep Tuesday against the Knicks, who have started to believe they can finish fifth in the East. But the way they performed Sunday, they should be more concerned with holding off Philadelphia to avoid falling into seventh.
''The luxury about the NBA is that we get a chance to come back Tuesday and play the same team. I know in my mind I'm going to be thinking about this game and this loss tonight,'' Anthony said. ''I just want my whole team to be on the same page with me when we step on that court Tuesday.''
Madison Square Garden was at its energetic best while the Knicks were out of town this week during Connecticut's historic run through the Big East tournament. The Knicks sleepwalked through their return home, taking the buzz right out of the building and even hearing boos during a lopsided third quarter and again at the end.
''I think that we were a little stagnant out there offensively, didn't quite get into a great rhythm and defensively we didn't play well, we didn't play with the energy we needed, and so as a result we lost,'' Stoudemire said.
Indiana led by eight at halftime, then got 13 points in the third from Hansbrough while extending the lead to 20. The Pacers were 9 of 14 in the period - Hansbrough made 5 of 6 - and held the Knicks to 30 percent shooting. Making matters worse for New York, Anthony and Stoudemire both had to go to the bench with their fourth fouls during the period.
The Knicks never trimmed the deficit below double-digits in the fourth quarter.
Indiana raced to an early eight-point lead before New York answered with a flurry, taking its first lead when Billups grabbed a rebound, flung a long outlet pass with his left hand to Anthony, who made the basket and was fouled. His free throw made it 17-16, but Indiana quickly recovered and led 29-21 after one, shooting 59 percent.
The Pacers led by as much as 13 in the half, outshooting the Knicks 60.5 percent to 39.5 percent and taking a 54-46 advantage to the locker room.
Notes: Pacers G A.J. Price, who played at UConn, was at MSG on Saturday to watch former teammate Kemba Walker lead the Huskies to the Big East tournament championship. ... It was the Knicks' first home game since announcing that season ticket prices would increase an average of 49 percent next season.