INDIANAPOLIS — Joakim Noah’s free-throw attempt in the opening minute sailed to the left and hit nothing. Kristaps Porzingis bricked his first six shots and committed two turnovers in the first 10 minutes. The Knicks appeared to be on their way to one of those long nights.
Instead, it turned into a game with which the Knicks have become all too accustomed. After they squandered a 16-point fourth-quarter lead, it was a nail-biter in the closing seconds. Lately, that’s when they have fallen apart or been snakebitten. This time, however, they got a break to go their way.
Carmelo Anthony hit some clutch shots down the stretch and the Knicks got a huge turnover with the game on the line that helped them beat the Pacers, 109-103, on Monday night.
In the previous four games, the Knicks lost three of them by two, three and one.
“If you lose another one like that, the guys probably would’ve quit, called it a year, probably,” Jeff Hornacek said. “So it was big to win that one. It stops the bleeding a little bit for us to get back to that winning way.”
The Knicks (20-26) went up 98-82 with 7:49 left but scored only two points in the next 6:43. Indiana tied it at 103 with 42 seconds left but never took the lead.
After Anthony’s turnaround baseline jumper gave the Knicks a 105-103 lead, Indiana’s Myles Turner mishandled an entry pass that went off his foot with 16.2 seconds left. Courtney Lee was fouled on the inbounds pass and made both free throws with 15.1 seconds remaining. He hit two more with four seconds left.
The Knicks lost their previous nine regular-season games here, going winless since March 2012.
“It’s a great feeling,’’ Anthony said. “I think we should be proud of ourselves the way we were able to bounce back, come on the road and get a big win like this.”
Anthony scored 26 points, five in the last 1:07, to lead the Knicks to their fourth win in 17 games. Derrick Rose added 20. The Knicks got a big lift from their bench, which led them back from 14 down in the first quarter.
Willy Hernangomez, one of the second-quarter sparks, had 14 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes. It was his second double-double in his last three games. Justin Holiday added 13.
Paul George scored 31 to lead Indiana (22-22). Turner had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
The Knicks needed their second unit (plus Rose) to turn things around, and they did in a 40-point second quarter. In the third, the starters helped build an 84-67 lead, but things got dicey in crunch time. The Knicks had some rough possessions, many involving Rose.
Just before the shot clock expired, Rose took a desperation three-point shot that was blocked. Anthony threw the ball out of bounds. Rose drove and had the ball slapped away, and it went out of bounds off him. On the next trip, Rose drove and had his layup blocked by Turner.
Rose said it was blocked after it hit the backboard and should have been goaltending. “You can see that on the third level,” he said. “Everybody saw it. I don’t know. Yeah, ask the refs that.”
Rose turned it over on the next possession, too. But after the Pacers moved within 100-99, Anthony scored inside to make it a three-point game with 1:07 left.
Porzingis fouled out on the next Indiana possession, leading to two free throws by Monta Ellis that made it 102-101 with 60 seconds to go. Anthony hit one of two free throws to give the Knicks a 103-101 lead with 46.5 seconds left, but he committed a foolish foul 4.5 seconds later, and George made both shots to tie it at 103.
“I think I was a little bit too aggressive on Paul,’’ Anthony said. “I probably shouldn’t have fouled him. I was trying to get the ball out of his hands, try to deny him.’’
But he made a tough turnaround jumper to put the Knicks up 105-103 with 23.4 seconds left.
“I don’t even want to think about if this one would have got away,’’ Anthony said. “We’re thinking positive right now. We’ll accept it the way we were able to come out and pull this one out.”