Sam SpiegelmanThe New York Knicks’ offense was not at its best. Then again, it didn’t have to be.
The Knicks (28-40) overcame a poor shooting performance with a dominant defensive effort against the Eastern Conference-leading Indiana Pacers in a 92-86 victory Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
The Knicks shot just 39 percent from the floor, including less than 25 percent from beyond the arc, but stymied Paul George and took the Pacers (50-18) out of their element in the paint to extend the season-high win streak to seven.
Finally, the Knicks are playing how they expected to all season long.
“Everybody made plays down the stretch. Everybody contributed,” Raymond Felton said, who scored 11 points, dished out six assists and had six boards. “It’s going great — kind of the way we were hoping it would go all season.”
In the first game since Phil Jackson was officially named team president, Carmelo Anthony proved just how valuable he can be for the franchise moving forward. Playing like it was postseason battle, ‘Melo scored a game-high 34 points and shot 52 percent from the floor.
He received help from Amar’e Stoudemire, whose jump shot translated to 21 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Tyson Chandler not only shined defensively against Pacers center Roy Hibbert, but led all players with 14 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.
“This stretch is the best (Anthony and Stoudemire) have been playing together,” J.R. Smith said of his teammates. “They’ve been unbelievable.”
“Amar’e is able to play minutes now,” Coach Mike Woodson said in reference to Stoudemire’s 29 minutes Wednesday. “His stats are off the chain.”
Indiana’s leading scorer Paul George was a non-factor in this contest. He could not stop Anthony and didn’t contribute offensively. George finished 4-of-17 from the field with 17 points, but his final six points came on a meaningless 3-pointer and free throws with the game already in the books.
Hibbert led the Pacers with 20 points, but overall the team was limited to 38 points in the paint. The bench combined to score 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting, and overall the team shot 42.5 percent from the floor, including a 21.7 percent mark from beyond the arc.
“I have to give a lot of credit to those guys in the locker room. We’re battling,” Woodson said. “Our defense was a lot better.”
With the win, New York cuts to within four games of the Atlanta Hawks — who have won five in a row — for the No. 8 seed in the conference. The Charlotte Bobcats, who sit a .5 game ahead of Atlanta in the 7-spot, lost to the Brooklyn Nets. Like the Knicks, the Hawks are back in action on Friday night.
The Knicks’ seventh consecutive win is the longest current streak in the Eastern Conference, and lucky enough for the team their next opponent comes in the form of the Philadelphia 76ers, losers of 22 in a row.