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SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Game 5 win nice, but Knicks not 'special' yet

Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, left,

Tyson Chandler of the New York Knicks, left, and Carmelo Anthony react after a play against the Indiana Pacers during Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. (May 16, 2013) Credit: Getty

Let's get this in type right now before the events of the next day -- or month -- have a chance to alter the vibe:

The Knicks have had a successful season by any reasonable standard, from winning games to selling tickets to just plain keeping everyone engaged and entertained through a long, cold winter and deep into spring.

They reached that milestone Thursday night when they avoided a five-game playoff series loss to the shooting-challenged, injured-point guard Pacers in front of what would have been an angry crowd at the Garden.

So, congrats Knicks, and more so Knicks fans, who have waited far longer for this than any current player has.

Now that that's out of the way, let's get real: Having achieved the minimum, the time is at hand for what Carmelo Anthony has cited as a goal several times in recent days.

"We feel like we have an opportunity to do something special," he said after Game 5, an 85-75 Knicks win.

That will require, first things first, two more victories over the Pacers, beginning tonight with the franchise's most important game since 2000, a visit to Bankers Life Fieldhouse that has "something special" written all over it.

The Knicks have struggled in four games there this season, but the Pacers are vulnerable and young, and suddenly that team is facing every bit of the pressure.

Put it this way: The way the Pacers shoot, if they return to New York and the crucible of a Game 7, Indianans might have another sports facility to call the Brickyard.

"Of course we have to come out and play like there's pressure [Saturday night]," the Pacers' Paul George said Thursday night after another exhausting night draped over Anthony. "Just because we're going home doesn't guarantee [anything]. We have to come out and really approach Game 6 as a desperation game."

Some of the most important minutes will be the first few. The Knicks charged to a 7-0 lead in Game 5, keeping the crowd from generating negative energy. They never trailed.

The Pacers would be wise to do the same Saturday night in their house, before the Knicks get comfortable.

"We haven't had that burst that we need on their floor throughout this series," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said Friday. "It would be nice to get out to a great start. That's what I'm going to be pushing for and see if they can play catch-up basketball instead of us having to do it."

Who knows where the Knicks will be at this time next season, with the Bulls presumably healthier, the Pacers a year more experienced and LeBron James still in Miami and still not yet 30 years old.

On Saturday night, the visitors will be 48 minutes from a Game 7 they would be favored to win, and with a good chance of putting the heat on the Heat far more than they did last season.

That would be something special. First, though, there is a game to win in Indianapolis.

New York Sports