|New York vs Indiana|
|92 - 119|
By the time Dunleavy's scoring spree was done, the only toughness shown by the Knicks came from Isiah Thomas, in perhaps the strongest comments he's ever made about the disappointing team he assembled.
Dunleavy scored 22 of his career-high 36 points in the third quarter, helping the Indiana Pacers pull away beat the Knicks 119-92 Monday night.
"We were a little sloppy in the first half," Dunleavy said. "Then in the second half we came in here and decided we wanted to pick up the tempo and just play and get a sizable lead on these guys, and in the third quarter that happened."
And once it did, Thomas didn't think his team wanted to play anymore - or at least, play the way he would have.
"As a coach, you bring certain things to the table, but our collective energy, our collective heart, our collective toughness, we say the right things but we don't gut it out for 48 minutes," Thomas said.
"We don't grind and we don't compete like we should for 48 minutes and I've never ... a lot of things that can be said about me and teams that I've coached and the way I played, but I've never been accused of not having heart or competing. Tonight was very discouraging to me because we didn't collectively play with heart and compete like I know I do."
Only a week ago, Thomas said he doesn't believe in criticizing his teams during tough times. He couldn't help himself Monday.
"I can give you a lot of things, but I can't give you pride and heart," he said. "A certain amount of that, the team collectively as players got to bring that to the court every night."
The Knicks have been accused of quitting on Thomas before and it saddens Jermaine O'Neal, who developed into an All-Star while playing for Thomas in Indiana.
"My heart goes out to Isiah, because I know him personally," O'Neal said. "Isiah's like a father to me and I know the type of competitive nature he has and the effort that's out there, and it's tough to see. It's tough to hear the crowd say fire him."
O'Neal added 22 points, two days after sustaining a mild concussion in a victory at Miami. The Pacers, the highest-scoring team in the Eastern Conference, ran away from the Knicks after the game was tied at 64 midway through the third quarter.
Troy Murphy had 17 points and Danny Granger 16 for Indiana, which has won two in a row for the first time since Nov. 27 and 28. The Pacers had alternated losses and wins in eight games since.
Indiana shot 58 percent from the field, going 11-for-23 from 3-point range, and outscored New York 55-28 after the final tie.
Zach Randolph had 26 points and nine rebounds for the Knicks, who endured a stretch of 20 straight missed shots over a nearly 11-minute span in the second quarter and lost for the sixth time in seven games.
Stephon Marbury returned to the Knicks after missing four straight games after his father's death. He came off the bench and scored 16 points, and Eddy Curry also added 16.
Curry was also the victim of a hoax. Word somehow got out that he guaranteed a victory - which Curry denied - but word got back to the Pacers, who believed it. O'Neal said the players discussed it and thought it was strange.
The Knicks battled back from their ugly second quarter to tie it at 64 when David Lee made two free throws with 5:51 left in the third period. Dunleavy answered with a layup and scored Indiana's next 12 points, capping his personal flurry with a 3-pointer that made it 76-66 with 2:08 left in the quarter.
"Michael carried us," Pacers coach Jim O'Brien said. "He was brilliant tonight. He's having a career year. He was just on fire and it was great to see because we needed it."
Indiana led 84-72 after three, and the only mystery after that was how loud the Madison Square Garden staff would have to pump out the sound effects to drown out the "Fire Isiah" chants as the lead grew in the fourth quarter.
Dunleavy nailed another 3-pointer to make it 103-81 with 5:37 remaining, surpassing his previous best performance of 32 points for Golden State against Philadelphia on Nov. 1, 2003. The lead ballooned to 31 later in the period.
Randolph was 7-of-9 for 15 points in the first quarter, when the Knicks shot 67 percent, and his layup with 23 seconds left gave New York a 27-26 lead headed to the second.
Jamal Crawford made a jumper 14 seconds into the period, but the Knicks wouldn't make another field goal for nearly 11 minutes. The Knicks missed 20 consecutive shots during that stretch, and if that wasn't bad enough, they even managed to embarrass themselves on defense as well.
Randolph, apparently looking to argue a call, completely turned his back and left Murphy wide open for a 3-pointer that made it 51-39 with 1:20 remaining. Randolph ended the drought with a bucket with 56 seconds remaining, and his 3-pointer with 0.9 seconds to go cut Indiana's lead to 53-46.
Notes: The Pacers have won or split the series in each of the last 10 seasons. ... Indiana was averaging 103.9 points coming into the game.