Sixth straight loss
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New York vs Indiana
96 - 102
Record: 6-17
Marbury & Co will host the Spurs on Wednesday (AP)
Marbury & Co will host the Spurs on Wednesday (AP)
NEW YORK (AP) -- If the Indiana Pacers do trade Ron Artest, Danny Granger is ready to step up.

Jermaine O'Neal scored 31 points, including the go-ahead basket with 1:56 left, and Granger had the best game of his rookie season as the Pacers beat New York 102-96 on Saturday night, handing the Knicks their season-high sixth straight loss.

"I think Danny Granger was the key to our success tonight," O'Neal said. "When things got tough and we needed big plays, whether offense or defense, he made that play."

Jamaal Tinsley added 23 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Pacers, who have won four of five overall and snapped a two-game road losing streak.

"We know that right now from a personnel standpoint we're not at our best, but there's a lot you can make up for with a strong collective effort and a strong belief in one other," Pacers coach Rick Carlisle said.

Granger scored a season-high 12 points, all in the second half. He played a season-high 29 minutes, mostly because starting small forward Stephen Jackson sprained his right thumb in the first half and did not play after halftime.

Granger, the 17th pick from New Mexico, could be seeing more minutes if the Pacers honor Artest's request to be traded. Artest's agent said Saturday his client now wants to remain in Indiana, but if there is a trade, Granger says he is ready.

"I'm definitely ready for that to happen, 'cause I always want to play more minutes," Granger said. "Ron was my mentor, he taught me a lot of things and I'd love to continue to play with him. But if a trade is going to happen, it gives me an opportunity."

Indiana's first-round pick also had three huge blocks in the fourth quarter.

Stephon Marbury scored 25 points for the Knicks, but had a costly turnover with 39 seconds left and New York trailing by three. Jamal Crawford added 15 points and Quentin Richardson had 12.

New York led 94-91 when Granger blocked Marbury's drive for his third block of the period, leading to two free throws by Tinsley with 3 minutes left. Neither team scored again until O'Neal gave Indiana the lead for good at 95-94 with his go-ahead dunk after a timeout.

Granger also showed he could provide some of the defense the Pacers miss without Artest. He had a block that Tinsley turned into a layup for a three-point lead midway through the quarter, and added another one on Crawford with the game tied at 91 with 4 minutes to go.

"It was real big," Tinsley said. "That's defense, that's chemistry on the defensive end. One guy blows past you and you know you've got a teammate who can step up and help you."

The Knicks lost their first five games of the season, their first under Larry Brown. They fell to 6-17.

"I never accept losing. It's killing me," Brown said. "I feel bad for our fans, I feel bad for our team and ownership for the responsibility they gave me. I asked those guys to do the right thing and they did tonight without exception."

Leading by one in the second quarter, the Knicks got a spark from rookie David Lee during a 10-2 run that gave them a 46-37 lead with 1:56 remaining in the half. Lee, who had been inactive for the last seven games, came off the bench to score four points during the burst on a follow shot and a dunk.

New York led 48-44 at halftime, one night after giving up 71 points in the first half of a 122-111 loss in Atlanta. The Knicks took a 73-71 lead into the fourth quarter after Maurice Taylor and Crawford closed the third with consecutive three-point plays in the final minute.

Knicks center Eddy Curry missed his second straight game after spraining his left ankle late in Thursday's practice. Also, rookie guard Nate Robinson was inactive after playing in all 22 games, starting six. Brown said Thursday he never expected Robinson would play much this season.

Game notes:
Former Pacers star Reggie Miller sat courtside with director and Knicks fan Spike Lee. Miller, who hit plenty of big shots against the Knicks during his career, was booed when he was shown on the overhead scoreboard in the closing minutes. "I tried to get him to suit up," said Brown, a former Pacers coach. ... The Pacers played without guard Fred Jones, who has a sprained left ankle that Carlisle did not think was serious.

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