By Melanie Evans Rivera

On Thursday evening, Amar’e Stoudemire stepped back onto the court at Madison Square Garden for the first time since March. At that point, late in the first quarter, he was joining a team that was already showing the grit, determination and effort that Knicks fans had expected they would see in an elimination game. On the back of much-improved performances from the entire team, especially Carmelo Anthony and rookie Chris Copeland, the Knicks succeeded and will now head back to Indiana to prepare for Game 6 on Saturday evening.

Once more playing limited minutes, just seven in this contest, Stoudemire added 2 points and 2 rebounds. Stoudemire was part of a Knicks bench that was key in securing the win against the Pacers. Indiana unexpectedly found themselves without one of their leading scorers, George Hill, who was scratched from the starting lineup late in the day after being diagnosed with a concussion.

J.R. Smith and Chris Copeland were the leading scorers off the pine, notching 13 points each. Carmelo Anthony led all scorers with 28 points and Raymond Felton added 12 more, as the Orange and Blue snatched a must-have victory by the score of 85-75.

As a team, the Knicks improved in several areas over their last two performances. On this occasion, they were only outdone on the glass by three bounds – 43 to 40. As they have done for most of the season, the Knicks handled the ball exceptionally well, coughing up only ten turnovers to the Pacers’ 19. The Orange and Blue also won the battle at the charity stripe, converting on 14 of 17 versus the Pacers rather dismal 19 of 33.

Amar’e, who admitted before the game he is still working on his conditioning, and the rest of the Knicks are now heading back to Indianapolis. They will face off again with the young Pacers team with the aim of bringing the series back for a decisive Game 7 back in New York.