Jackson, a player on the last two Knicks' title teams dating back
more than 40 years who went on to win 11 NBA crowns as head coach of
the Bulls and Lakers, watched from a midcourt seat as the Knicks
posted their seventh consecutive win by beating the Indiana Pacers
92-86 on Wednesday.
When the huge TV screens that hover over the court showed a closeup
of Jackson in the stands during a first-quarter time out, the packed
Garden crowd erupted in an ovation and the 68-year-old with 13 NBA
rings stood to acknowledge the cheers.
"They went crazy, we expected that," Knicks guard Iman Shumpert said
about the fans' reaction. "The great thing is we won the game."
The victory improved the Knicks to 28-40.
The Knicks' resurgence has given them an outside shot of earning one
of the eight Eastern Conference playoff seeds after stumbling
through a miserable season that led owner James Dolan to coax
Jackson out of retirement to try to fix the Knicks.
The six previous wins in their current, desperate run were
registered against weak teams, but Wednesday's triumph came at the
expense of the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers, who eliminated New
York during last season's playoffs.
Jackson, whose five-year contract will pay him a reported $12
million a year, figures to make moves to reshape the team and his
presence was certainly felt in the Garden, both in the stands and in
"With a guy like that around, it creates a winning mentality," said
Amar'e Stoudemire, who scored 21 points against Indiana. "It creates
an atmosphere that's pretty golden."
Stoudemire, who has become a force on the floor since recovering
from knee injuries that have limited his play time the last couple
of seasons, said he enjoyed Jackson's moment.
"It was beautiful, a standing ovation which was well deserved. It
was awesome," he said.
Carmelo Anthony, last year's NBA scoring leader, led the way for the
Knicks with 34 points and handed out five assists, bringing a smile
to Jackson, who puts a premium on team play.
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"It's simple," said Anthony. "If a man is open, you pass him the
ball. My teammates made shots and I found them. The game is simple."
Anthony said he did not feel any additional pressure playing in
front of Jackson, just the urgency to win every game for a chance at
"Hard times call for desperate measures," he said. "Right now our
backs are against the wall."
The Knicks trail the seventh-seed Charlotte Bobcats by 4-1/2 games
and the eighth-seed Atlanta Hawks by four games, while the Pacers,
who are trying to stay ahead of the Miami Heat to hold homecourt
advantage in the playoffs, slipped to 50-18.
New York has been playing better defense and moving the ball around — two tenets that Jackson stressed as the league's most successful
"That's how we should play the game," said Stoudemire. "We got to
move the ball, It's something that's definitely contagious. Players
really get the confidence and are going to shoot the ball well. The
more it happens, the better we are.
"It's brilliant. We're playing great basketball on both ends of the
court. We're getting stops, the ball is moving, we're scoring at a
high rate. It's great basketball."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; editing by Frank Pingue)
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