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Knicks top Pacers, stay close to playoff berth

INDIANAPOLIS - It's tough to ignore the stretch of home games coming up starting tomorrow for the Knicks, but they managed to do it last night in a game that could pay dividends come April.

On the strength of 49 percent shooting, including 15-for-34 shooting from three-point range, the Knicks defeated the Pacers, 122-113, at Conseco Fieldhouse for their eighth win in 11 games, keeping pace in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

The Knicks (21-25) are a half-game behind Milwaukee (24-27) for the eighth and final spot and three games ahead of the Pacers (19-29). The Knicks, who led by as many as 19 points last night, lost to Indiana at home Jan. 2 and have one more home game with the Pacers in February.

"It does have a little significance. We're kind of in a race with those guys," said Quentin Richardson, who scored 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting from three-point range and helped the Knicks pull away with four three-pointers in the second quarter.

Al Harrington had 31 points and David Lee finished with 23 points and 17 rebounds for the Knicks, his 10th consecutive double-double and 35th of the season. T.J. Ford led the Pacers with 36 points. Danny Granger had 19 and Mike Dunleavy and Stephen Graham each had 14 for the Pacers, who had their home winning streak snapped at seven.

The Knicks opened a big lead in the second quarter behind a 25-5 run, punctuated by a putback dunk by Wilson Chandler (16 points, eight rebounds) that made it 55-38. The Knicks made 8 of 11 three-point attempts in the quarter, including four by Richardson and a pair off the bench from Danilo Gallinari.

The Pacers' last lead was 33-30 after Granger's three-pointer, his second basket of the game after a 1-for-8 start from the field. The Eastern Conference All-Star shot 6-for-17.

Indiana crept to within single digits in the closing minutes but could get no closer than seven at 116-109 after Ford's layup.

Now the focus for the Knicks turns toward the toughest week of the season, with the Lakers, Cavaliers and Celtics visiting the Garden tomorrow, Wednesday and Friday.

"This is a big week for us, a lot of statement games coming up," coach Mike D'Antoni said. "We'll see if we can do it. We know the teams we're going up against, and there's three in a row."

Notes & quotes: Jared Jeffries started but left after the first quarter with a left thigh contusion.

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