Rasheed Wallace's formula for the Knicks' second-teamers is pretty straightforward.

"We just try to outshine the first unit," Wallace said with a grin Sunday after the Knicks' bench contributed 33 points in an 88-76 win over the Pacers at Madison Square Garden.

"No, really, we're just trying to pick up where they left off," said Wallace, who had nine points, seven rebounds and a blocked shot in 16:35. "That was an intense game, coming off this hard road trip. They got us off to a good start, and it's up to us to add on to that. If we go out there and the lead gets chopped in half, or we're out there turning the ball over, we just know it's going to be more minutes for them, and that's something we definitely try to prevent."

Wallace, 38, who scored 13 points in a season-high 24 minutes in Friday's loss to the Grizzlies, knew the matinee would be a battle.

"Being a veteran, the earlier the game, the more it [stinks] for us, but later in the game, the more we warm up, the better," said Wallace, whose key offensive contributions came at the end of the third quarter and the start of the fourth.

With the Knicks' 15-point lead down to nine, Wallace hit a 25-foot three-pointer with 54.3 seconds left in the third quarter and then grabbed two rebounds off missed Pacers free throws. Wallace made a driving layup on a pass from Ronnie Brewer 33 seconds into the fourth quarter, and after Sam Young's dunk, Wallace's dunk gave the Knicks a 72-58 lead.

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But Wallace built his reputation not on his long-range shooting but with his defense. He cited the perseverance and intensity of heralded Knicks teams of the past as a reason he came out of retirement after two years to play for Mike Woodson.

"It was that tenacity. They were hard-nosed," Wallace said. "I was a huge Patrick Ewing fan; that's what made me sway this way. You had Oak, you had J-Starks . . . It was an all-around good team and they played hellified defense. That's what I liked about them."

Now the Knicks (7-1) have won five games in which they've limited opponents to fewer than 90 points. Wallace wouldn't draw direct comparisons to that tough group of the mid-1990s, but he likes the current defensive mind-set.

"I think it's everybody in the locker room," he said. "We have two two-time defensive players [of the year] and other veterans who pride themselves on defense. You have a defensive coach, two defensive assistant coaches, so it's just a matter of time before everyone buys into it, and once we all do, it's going to be hellacious."