"He's been one of our keys man, this whole season. We need J.R.," Anthony said on Friday morning. "I don't want him playing with no added pressure, unnecessary pressure that he don't need at this point. Just play basketball and everybody play their part and do what they have to do."
Smith struggled mightily in Game 5.
He missed his first 10 shots and finished 3-for-14 for 14 points. Afterward, he said he was "anxious" during the game and it may have affected his shot.
Smith, the NBA's Sixth Man Award winner, was playing for the first time since serving a one-game suspension for elbowing Jason Terry in Game 3. He predicted before Game 5 that the Knicks would have completed the sweep if he'd played in Game 4.
Three days later, the Knicks are one loss away from Game 7 at Madison Square Garden to decide a series they once led, 3-0.
Because of his bold prediction and the elbow to Terry, Smith will likely receive an ugly reception from Celtics fans tonight.
But Tyson Chandler thinks his sixth man can handle it. "I think he’ll be fine," Chandler said on Friday. "He was playing excellent basketball up the point where he got tossed out of the game. So I expect him to be focused, and come back and give us a good spark."
No team in NBA history has ever rebounded from a 3-0 series deficit. The Celtics are one of 12 teams to force a Game 6 after trailing 3-0 in the series. The home team is 3-3 in that scenario.
In order to avoid ending up on the wrong side of NBA history, the Knicks need more out of both Smith and Anthony.
Anthony followed his 10-for-35 outing in Game 4 with an 8-for-24 game in Game 5.
He has been used in isolation at an alarming rate according to ESPN Stats & Information. Anthony has been in isolation in 45 percent of the plays in this series that end in him taking a shot, turning it over or taking a free throw.
Anthony has shot an unsightly 29.8 percent from the field in isolation so far, compared to 46.3 percent on all other plays in the playoffs, per ESPN Stats & Information.
On Friday, Anthony talked about "getting my teammates more involved in the game, picking them up offensively, giving them some more confidence."
So what's been the biggest problem in the last two games?
"It's our offense," Anthony said. "We get stagnant sometimes and make it tough on the other end."
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