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Knicks Welcoming Return to The Mecca

Home is where the heart is, but it is also where the bed is, the dog is, the cozy spot on the couch and the local shops that every Knicks player enjoys.

With the first grueling road trip of the season in the rear view mirror, the Knicks will take the court tonight in The Garden for the first time since Dec. 7th.

They face the Indiana Pacers (15-14), who have won two straight. The Knicks are 14-13, having lost the last three games on their five-game West Coast road trip.

But the Knicks have done a terrific job thus far of achieving one of their goals: Make The Garden a true home court advantage.

The Knicks are 9-4 in the World’s Most Famous Arena. The Pacers are 4-10 on the road.

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There have been countless studies on the advantages of playing at home, one of which found that teams should win 10.11 percent more if they played every game at home.

“You feel the crowd,’’ said center Kyle O’Quinn, who has been a force off the bench. “You feel the energy from the people that support you. You also feel positive pressure.”

“You know you need to get something rolling. The fans are here. They pay their hard-earned money to come and watch these games. They don’t want to see you lose. You feel that pressure,” O’Quinn continued.

“You know at the end, when you go out there and bust your tail, you know they’re going to embrace you. Like man, ‘Thanks for the effort.’ That’s the impact of playing at home. We’ve got a huge advantage. We’ve got true fans.”

The Knicks are at 100-percent attendance capacity in The Garden this season. Every night, 19,812 fans pack “The Mecca” of hoops on 7th Avenue.

“Obviously, the atmosphere is much better playing at home,’’ said Kristaps Porzingis. “It’s so energetic playing at Madison Square Garden. Just knowing how it’s going to be every night, I’m excited to be back home.”

Kristaps Porzingis talks about gaining valuable experience on a tough road trip and looks forward to the Knicks' three-game homestand.

The Knicks hope to get a lift from the return of starting point guard Derrick Rose, who missed the last two games with back spasms. He said after practice on Monday that he expects to take the court tonight.

“He didn’t complain of any back spasms or anything like that,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “Very hopeful that he’ll be able to go.”

There are factors that contribute to a home team’s success that isn’t as quantitative as attendance.

Studies have shown the positive effects of that having a pet has on individuals. Others have validated beliefs that humans simply are more relaxed in their home environments.

When asked what they relished most about being back home — aside from family and friends — Lance Thomas and Ron Baker said it was their dogs.

Note to burglars: Thomas has a Doberman Pinscher named Romeo. Baker has a Yellow Lab, Great Pyrenees mix named Sabre.

“That feeling when they first see you, never gets old,” Baker said. “I’ve had him since I was in high school.”

O’Quinn said as soon as he folds himself on his couch, puts his feet up on his ottoman and turns on his wide screen TV, he knows he’s home.

“When we’re on the road, we get the best of everything and I never take that for granted,” he said. “The best restaurants, hotels, and people give you their best effort. But there’s nothing like being at home.”

Mindaugas Kuzminskas said that while his head was 100-percent focused on the games the Knicks played out West, his heart was yearning to return to New York.

His parents, girlfriend and his girlfriend’s parents arrived in the Big Apple on Dec. 15th from Lithuania. He hasn’t seen them since before the Knicks opened training camp in late September.

“When you know that they’re in New York, it’s different than when they’re in Lithuania,” Kuz said. “It puts a smile on my face.’’

This should put a smile on the faces of Knicks fans: Bolstered by their home record, the Knicks now have a 58-percent chance of making the playoffs, according to FiveThirtyEight.com.

The site also gives the Knicks a 65-percent chance of winning tonight. They currently own the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.

Courtney Lee's priority is set on giving a full effort defensively while scouting the Pacers ahead of Tuesday night's match up at The Garden.

“It feels good playing in front of our home crowd, on our home court,” said guard Courtney Lee. “Playing in some of those cities is fun, but it takes a toll on your body.”

“Sunday, everybody got to go home, sleep in their own bed, it just felt good to be back. I’m excited to be back in front of our crowd. The energy is the best in the league.”