Running out of gas
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L
82
101
New York @ Indiana
82 - 101
Record: 22-55
Steve Francis scores 11 points and had 6 turnovers (AP Photo)
Steve Francis scores 11 points and had 6 turnovers (AP Photo)
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana forward Jermaine O'Neal showed his leadership skills without forcing his shots against the New York Knicks .

Instead, the Pacers' leading scorer let his teammates carry the offensive load in a 101-82 win Monday night that improved the Pacers' chances of making the playoffs.

Stephen Jackson scored 28 points, Peja Stojakovic scored 23 and Austin Croshere added 17 points and 11 rebounds as the Pacers (37-40) moved into a tie for sixth in the Eastern Conference standings.

O'Neal didn't make a field goal until the fourth quarter and was held to 10 points. He made his mark on the defensive end, where he had four blocks.

"I was frustrated, but at a certain point you've got to know offensively it's not going to be there for you," he said. "But we've got so many different guys that can hurt you in a bad way. I just wanted to be locked in defensively and help guys, block some shots and do what I needed to do there."

Croshere, who came off the bench to play one of his best games of the season, knew what needed to be done. Indiana had lost eight of 10 and lost 98-73 at Detroit on Sunday, but the Pacers outrebounded the Knicks 40-31 and held them to 38 percent shooting in the second half.

"It's kind of late to say, but make a stand," he said. "Everybody is really upset with the way we've been playing, coming off an embarrassing loss in Detroit. Everybody came in with a different attitude tonight."

Jamal Crawford led the Knicks with 26 points and seven assists, but no other Knicks player scored more than 12 points. Indiana stopped New York's winning streak at three games.

"Tonight, we just ran out of gas," Crawford said. "But that is not an excuse. They played with a sense of urgency and desperation trying to make the playoffs."

The Knicks felt they let an opportunity slip away.

"You can't hold Jermaine (O'Neal) to a 1-for-7 shooting night but then let two or three of their other guys get off like they did," New York center Eddy Curry said. "Croshere was great for them. Jack was great and Peja was great. We couldn't match them."

New York's Channing Frye , Jalen Rose , Quentin Richardson and Stephon Marbury all missed the game with injuries.

Crawford's fallaway jumper with a half-second remaining gave New York a 98-96 win over Indiana last Friday. Crawford never got the chance on Monday after the Pacers took control for good in the third quarter.

Indiana led 48-46 at halftime, but New York took a quick 57-52 lead after three baskets by Crawford. The Pacers closed the quarter on an 11-0 run to take a 72-62 lead into the final period.

The Pacers led by as many as 25 points in the fourth quarter. Jackson scored 16 of his 28 points in the second half.

"I just got lucky tonight and hit some shots," he said. "I've been struggling lately, but my teammates have a lot of confidence in me to keep giving me the ball. I just wanted to be confident with my shots, be aggressive and have a no-lose attitude. We had to have this win."

The Pacers, who entered the season talking about contending for the NBA title, have five games to prove they belong in the playoffs.

"You can say you can do anything," Jackson said. "It's about doing it and stop talking. We did a lot of talking this year, we made a lot of excuses. It's about us doing it."

Notes:
Indiana point guard Jamaal Tinsley played after missing three games with a sore right Achilles' tendon. He finished with six points and seven assists. ... A double technical was called on Indiana's Jackson and New York's Nate Robinson early in the second quarter after the two exchanged words. ... Stojakovic lost ground in his attempt to catch Phoenix guard Steve Nash for the league lead in free throw percentage. He made 1-of-2 and now is shooting 91.3 percent for the season. Nash, who didn't play Monday, is shooting 92.4 percent.

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