The Knicks have been raving about their depth all season, and on their best nights, they have offensive balance from their first to second unit -- sometimes featuring four players in double-figure scoring.
But that's exactly what they didn't have in Sunday's 102-88 loss. Instead, it was the winning formula for the Los Angeles Clippers, the team the Knicks envision facing in June, J.R. Smith told ESPNNewYork.com.
"We look at that matchup for us in the East-West," he said. "As we look forward to the Finals, we feel that's the team we're going to see. Our bench has been so similar, our depth and stuff, so that's the team that we really look out for because they have a sixth man as well with Jamal (Crawford), and they've got so many pieces with L.O. (Lamar Odom) and (Eric) Bledsoe coming off the bench. We have to just try to figure out how to play with their energy."
Smith said the Knicks are in a "good spot" as they approach the All-Star break, but they want to overtake the Heat at the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
"We're not exactly where we want to be because we want to be in first overall," he said. "We really need to pick up our divisional wins so we can make sure we get that slot for home-court advantage."
Regarding his role, Smith said he's "pretty happy" and doesn't think more plays, such as screen sets, need to be run for him to find quicker midrange shots or closer lanes to the basket. He's more focused on making stops.
"I think I can make a bigger impact on the defensive end more than anything," he said. "My rebounding and assist stats have been up, but they're still not where I really want them to be. I'm still determined that I have a lot to do."Jared Zwerling
Smith, who's a longtime Power Rangers fanatic, believes he has some special powers of his own.
GO, GO POWER! On Monday night, Smith, along with the Power Rangers, surprised a dozen youth basketball players at Chelsea Piers to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the popular TV show. Smith and the Power Rangers, who were making their 10th and final stop of the day around the city at different landmarks, went through different hoops drills with the children.
Smith, in fact, has been a huge fan of the Power Rangers since he was a kid -- and he still occasionally watches with his brother, Chris.
"I loved them growing up," J.R. said. "As a little kid, you see teenagers just changing into superheroes and nobody really knew who they were, so it was kind of anonymous, like a members-only type thing. It was something I always wanted. Actually, my brother and I always used to fight over who was going to be the white rangers and the black rangers. I ended up having to be the green one more than I wanted to."
Smith said his favorite Power Ranger growing up was the white one. "He had the girl, he had all the moves, he was the leader, so he was always everybody's pick," he said.
Smith dreamed of having his own superpowers. Now that he's in the NBA, he feels like he has some.
"Every kid wanted to fly and I always wanted to dunk," he said. "When I'm on the court, I think I've got little powers, like cross people up and dunk."
Smith felt the most supernatural with these three dunks: reversing it from the waist against the Spurs this season, driving through the lane and soaring over George Hill in December 2010 and converting a 360-degree, alley-oop in March 2010.
While Smith has all the springs, the big question is: Can he morph into the Sixth Man Award winner and lead the Knicks to the Finals -- and a potential matchup with the Clippers?
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