Venue: Madison Square Garden
With Linsanity fading and the New York Knicks reeling, coach Mike D'Antoni had finally seen enough - and his departure may have unintentionally sparked his former team.
Coming off their most lopsided win of the season, the Knicks seek consecutive victories for the first time in more than a month when they open a home-and-home series with the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.
D'Antoni abruptly resigned Wednesday - reports say it was a mutual decision with management - with New York mired in a six-game losing streak, and the seven-game winning streak sparked by Jeremy Lin's emergence becoming an increasingly distant memory.
Interim coach Mike Woodson had little time to prepare for his debut at the helm, but New York (19-24) responded Wednesday night with a 121-79 home drubbing of Portland to end the skid.
"When you look into their eyes after something like this has happened, you know, you wonder as a coach are they mentally there," said Woodson, whose team hasn't won consecutive games since the Lin-fueled run Feb. 4-15. "I just told them to take a deep breath and relax and let's go out and have fun and play basketball the way I think we're capable of doing it, and I think they responded."
J.R. Smith scored 23 points and Steve Novak added 20 as reserves, while Amare Stoudemire finished with 17 and Carmelo Anthony chipped in 16.
Lin, who flourished under D'Antoni's pick-and-roll, faced-paced offense, had six points, six assists and six turnovers.
"It's going to be a different style, a different rhythm, but we still need to figure it out because we don't all have it figured out just yet right now," Lin said of playing under Woodson.
Stoudemire, meanwhile, believes he and Anthony will benefit from the change.
"I just think he's just going to utilize his leading scorers," Stoudemire said. "With myself and Carmelo, he's going to utilize us to make sure that we take advantage of our every opportunity out there on the court. We've been profound scorers all our career, so we're going to make sure we take advantage of it."
Anthony took advantage of the Pacers when these teams last met, scoring 34 points including a 19-foot jumper with four seconds remaining to lift New York to a 110-109 win at Indiana last April 10.
The Knicks had lost three of their previous four meetings with the Pacers (25-16), who set a season high Wednesday by shooting 56.6 percent in a 111-94 home win over Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia.
"It helps a lot," Danny Granger, who scored a team-high 20 points, said of defeating a division leader. "This game had more meaning than probably most people realized."
The Pacers made a meaningful trade Thursday, dealing a second-round pick to Toronto for veteran guard Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa averaged 12.2 points in 42 games this season with the Raptors, all coming in a reserve role
"He gives us added depth and scoring off the bench and will help us as we make our run to the playoffs," Indiana team president Larry Bird said.
Tyler Hansbrough's 29 points trumped 28 from Stoudemire and 25 from Anthony as the Pacers beat the Knicks 106-93 without Granger on March 13, 2011, in their last visit to MSG.
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