Falling in home opener
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L
95
109
New York vs Indiana
95 - 109
Record: 1-2
Nate Robinson enjoyed every minute he got (AP Photo)
Nate Robinson enjoyed every minute he got (AP Photo)
NEW YORK (AP) - Al Harrington 's early season struggles ended against the defenseless New York Knicks .

Harrington scored 32 points, and the Indiana Pacers sent the Knicks to their fifth straight home-opening loss with a 109-95 victory Saturday night.

Taking advantage of New York's poor defensive effort, Harrington shot 14-of-24 from the field. A key offseason acquisition for the Pacers, he was only 4-for-19 for 12 points in the first two games.

"Finally," Harrington said. "Teammates were finding me wide open. I missed a lot of easy shots, but fortunately enough I was able to make a lot of them, too."

Harrington returned to Indiana this summer when the Pacers acquired him from Atlanta. The New Jersey native said the Knicks wanted him, too, but the Hawks didn't want to cooperate. So instead, he showed New York what it could have had.

"That was something we needed," Indiana's Stephen Jackson said. "He hasn't been shooting too well the first two games, but we need his offense."

Harrington wasn't the only Indiana player to find things easy Saturday. The Pacers shot 64 percent (25-of-39) in the second half to spoil the first home game of Knicks coach Isiah Thomas.

Steve Francis scored 25 points and Eddy Curry had 22 for New York, which hasn't won a home opener since Oct. 30, 2001. Stephon Marbury had a miserable game, going 1-for-9 for four points with six turnovers, and wasn't surprised when he was the target of boos.

"Surprised? They came here to see us win. They didn't come here to see us lose," Marbury said. "I knew I was going to get it. I had a bad game. Fortunately, there's 79 more. I just didn't play well. I just had a bad game. I can't explain that. I just played bad."

Thomas coached the Pacers from 2000-03, leading them to three playoff appearances before he was fired by Pacers president Larry Bird and replaced by current coach Rick Carlisle.

Following last season's 23-59 debacle, Thomas acknowledged before the game that the Knicks had to win back the fans. And though the Madison Square Garden crowd got behind New York when it was trying to rally, there were the familiar boos and groans when the Knicks simply couldn't get any stops.

"Right now Indiana is a better basketball team than we are," Thomas said. "It's a tough night for us but we'll swallow our bad medicine and we'll get up in the morning and we'll go to practice and try to get ready for Monday."

Leading by five at halftime, Indiana hit its first 11 shots in the third quarter. Maybe the Knicks might have thought about a hard foul or something - after all, Thomas was the star of the Detroit "Bad Boy" teams that won consecutive titles fueled by their tough play. But Indiana didn't attempt its first free throw of the game until Harrington made a pair almost halfway through the period.

By then, the Pacers were on their way to hitting 13-of-17 from the field in the quarter, building a 14-point lead. New York chipped away late in the period as Nate Robinson scored the final five points, including a 3-pointer with 0.1 seconds left that cut Indiana's lead to 77-76 heading to the fourth.

"The times when you're rolling like that offensively, it's kind of dangerous because you kind of start forgetting about the defensive end," Harrington said. "And you know we did that, that's why we allowed them to cut it to one going to the fourth."

But the Pacers quickly regained control, scoring the first nine points of the fourth to open an 86-76 lead on a three-point play by Sarunas Jasikevicius with 8:44 to play. The Knicks never got closer than six again.

Jermaine O'Neal scored 17 points and Jasikevicius added 16. Jamaal Tinsley had 14 assists.

Indiana led 43-31 after Harrington's dunk with 2:03 to go in the second quarter. The Knicks closed with a 9-2 surge to pull to 45-40 at halftime, taking advantage of a 19-0 edge in free throws attempted in the half. However, New York only made 13 of them (68 percent).

Official Jess Kersey worked the game with a bandage above his chin. He was knocked out of the Dallas-San Antonio game Thursday night when the ball was swatted out of bounds and hit him with the whistle still in his mouth, opening a cut that required five stitches.

Notes:
Carlisle earned his 148th win as Pacers coach, passing Bird for second-most since the team joined the NBA. Fired Knicks coach Larry Brown is first with 190. ... Ruined by injuries the last few years, the Pacers used their usual starting lineup for the first three games for the first time in five years. "Our health situation's better now than it's been the last couple of years and we're knocking on wood on that," Carlisle said. "We've got guys who are working real hard to stay healthy."

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