NEW YORK (AP) The offense came late, though for most of the night it looked as if it wouldn’t come at all.
The Indiana Pacers weren’t sitting around waiting for it. They were prepared to win it with their defense.
Rodney Stuckey scored 17 points, George Hill made the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 2:34 left, and the Pacers beat the New York Knicks 92-86 on Saturday night for their season-best fifth straight victory.
The Pacers, trying to recapture the defensive dominance that carried them to the last two Eastern Conference finals, held the Knicks to two baskets in the final 5 minutes.
”The last 5 minutes we said the team that’s going to put consecutive stops in a row together is the team that’s going to win,” Hill said.
Hill had 15 points and David West finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for Indiana, which made 10 of 15 shots in the fourth quarter. The Pacers have won 11 of 13 and moved into a tie for seventh place in the East.
”I like the chase,” coach Frank Vogel said. ”I like that every win or every loss can move you two, three spots in the standings. That brings a good, healthy urgency to every game.”
The Pacers had beaten the Knicks twice by a combined 44 points, including a 105-82 home victory Wednesday night, but this was a struggle throughout a night after beating Chicago.
Andrea Bargnani scored 21 points before fouling out and Alexey Shved had 15 for the Knicks. They lost their third straight to drop to 12-49.
”I saw grit. I saw effort. We just came up a little short,” Knicks coach Derek Fisher said.
Consecutive baskets by Shved and two free throws by Lance Thomas gave New York its largest lead at 71-62 with just under 10 minutes remaining. The Pacers regrouped with their second unit on the floor, answering with a 16-4 run that put them ahead 78-75 on C.J. Watson’s four-point play midway through the period.
It was 83-all before Hill nailed his 3-pointer, and Stuckey followed with two free throws and a bank shot to put it away. The backup guard has been a catalyst in the Pacers’ second-half charge to postseason position and finished right about the 17.9 points he had been averaging since the All-Star break.
The previous four victories had all come at home, and the Pacers go right back to Indianapolis to play four straight there starting Tuesday against Orlando as they try to separate themselves from a number of teams battling for the final two spots in the East.
”Because we started so slow I don’t expect us to separate too much,” forward Luis Scola said. ”I expect us to be grinding all the way to the end, but if we play the way we’ve been playing, we’ll be OK.”
The Pacers, who never trailed Wednesday, had a 22-18 lead after one quarter. But they shot just 5 for 21 in the second and had just two baskets in the final 9 1/2 minutes, both by Stuckey. The Knicks outscored them 18-7 during that stretch and led 43-38 at halftime.
West got the Pacers untracked with three straight jumpers for a 52-51 lead. New York led 63-60 after three.
Pacers: The Pacers have allowed 86 or fewer points and limited opponents to under 40 percent shooting in every game of their winning streak. … Roy Hibbert also grabbed 11 rebounds but missed all six shots in finishing with three points.
Knicks: Starting forward Lou Amundson missed the game with back spasms. Fisher originally said he expected Cole Aldrich to start, but the Knicks went with Jason Smith instead. Aldrich had eight points and 11 rebounds off the bench.
Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. missed all nine shots and finished with one point in 21 minutes while batting back problems. ”It just locked up on me,” he said. ”I tried to go out there and tried to run up and down and it just wasn’t happening.”