NEW YORK (AP) — Long after Phil Jackson acknowledged the cheering fans with a thumbs-up and then a wave, there was one more standing ovation inside Madison Square Garden.
This one went to the Knicks, a far cry from the way they were treated at home earlier this season.
Carmelo Anthony scored 34 points and New York opened the Jackson era by beating the Indiana Pacers 92-86 Wednesday night for its season-high seventh straight victory.
With their new team president watching from a midcourt seat, the Knicks dominated the first half, then pulled away after the Eastern Conference leaders finally got untracked in the second.
"With a guy like that around it creates a winning mentality, it creates an atmosphere that's pretty golden and we've got to capitalize on that," Knicks forward Amare Stoudemire said.
Fans stood for Jackson in the first quarter and were on their feet again in the final minute to watch the Knicks beat the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year.
"There's energy in the city. Bringing Phil back is huge for this franchise I think," coach Mike Woodson said. "But I've got to give a lot of credit to those guys in the locker room too, because again, we're battling. We've dug a hole and we're trying to dig our way out of the hole."
Lance Stephenson had 21 points and nine rebounds for the Pacers, who had their four-game winning streak snapped and failed to extend their three-game lead over the Miami Heat, who lost to Boston earlier Wednesday. Roy Hibbert scored 20 on 8-of-10 shooting, but All-Star Paul George missed all six first-quarter shots and finished 4 for 17 for his 17 points.
"We haven't grown our IQ as a team into improvising when teams try to throw little wrenches into our offense and that's where we've got to grow offensively," George said.
New York's previous six wins had all come against non-playoff teams, but this was against a team that seemingly had returned to form after dropping a season-worst four in a row.
"The teams that we play, we feel like they're in our way. That's our motto right now. They're in our way and we don't want to let nothing stop that," Anthony said.
Stoudemire added 21 points and Tyson Chandler grabbed 14 rebounds for the Knicks, just 16-20 at home and four games behind Atlanta for the final East playoff spot.