New York Knicks launch Phil Jackson era with seventh straight win

New York thump visiting Pacers as fans give new team president a standing ovation - twice

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 10:26pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 10:26pm

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

This one went to the Knicks and it was a far cry from the way they were treated at home earlier this season.

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

Bringing Phil back is huge for this franchise  ... We've dug a hole and we're trying to dig our way out of the hole
Coach Mike Woodson 

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

"With a guy like that around it creates a winning mentality, it creates an atmosphere that's pretty golden and we've got to capitalise on that," 31-year-old Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said.

Fans stood for Jackson in the first quarter and were on their feet again in the final minute as the Knicks beat the team that knocked them out of the play-offs last year.

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

"But I've got to give a lot of credit to those guys in the locker room too because, again, we're battling. We've dug a hole and we're trying to dig our way out of the hole."

Lance Stephenson had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers, whose four-game winning streak was ended.

Roy Hibbert scored 20 on 8-of-10 shooting, but All-Star Paul George missed all six first-quarter shots and finished 4 for 17 for his 17 points.

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

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

Jackson met coaches and players earlier on Wednesday, then watched the game from a seat above centre 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.

Woodson said before the game he was not angry that Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan had originally talked to Jackson in December about the coaching job, adding that "the city should be buzzing" over his return.

But it should be noted that not all of it is - a group of fans frustrated with Dolan's leadership of the franchise went through with a previously planned protest outside the arena before the game started.

Woodson improved to 45-16 in March and April as Knicks coach, but New York faces an uphill climb to dig out of the hole a 2-11 February created.