Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Smith plays 'off the charts' in Boston
By Jared Zwerling
Knicks sixth man J.R. Smith, who scored a game-high 32 points, has found his offensive groove.
BOSTON -- "Don't stop attacking."
That was the message the Knicks had for J.R. Smith early in the game on Tuesday night, and reasonably so. The Celtics were playing a smaller lineup without their best frontcourt defender, Kevin Garnett, due to injury.
Smith took full advantage, scoring a game-high 32 points on 13-for-24 shooting in only 34 minutes, as the Knicks knocked off the Celtics, 100-85. It was the fourth straight game in which he finished 50 percent or higher from the field. He also had three steals.
"Offensively, he's off the charts," Jason Kidd said after the game. "I thought his game had the total package defensively, which was huge for us, being able to help the helper. And I thought just his shot selection tonight was great. He's shooting the ball extremely ball."
Kenyon Martin, who shared what the team told Smith to further motivate him, described the sixth man's magic.
"That kid talent-wise, man, he's one of the best talents in the league," said Martin, who previously played in Denver with Smith. "He can shoot the ball anywhere. The sky's the limit for him ... When he's getting to the basket, that just opens his game up even more. He makes tough spots, which he's proven time and time again."
Melo got a much-needed boost from J.R. Smith off the bench.
Smith also knew coming into the contest that the Celtics would be short-handed down low. "They didn't have any shot blockers," he said afterward.
When Smith first touched the ball in the opening period, his focus was to act quickly. That's what happened when he burned Celtics forward Chris Wilcox to the basket on back-to-back possessions. That aggressive mentality has been the name of Smith's game during his recent sizzling shooting streak.
"I've stopped thinking and just go," he said. "I'm not trying to do too much thinking."
Smith has always excelled as a one-on-one player -- on some nights looking like the best shooting guard on the planet -- but he has a tendency to take ill-advised shots. But lately, he's making one to two dribble moves and then passing the ball or going right at his man to draw fouls, which the Knicks have needed to do beyond Carmelo Anthony.
"When he's attacking, it's kind of hard to stop that," Melo said. "He attacks, he gets to the free throw line, he can make outside shots. We feed off of him. We let him do his thing and we space out."
Said Mike Woodson: "He's been really mixing up his game as of late."
Smith has also been a threat in transition recently. After the Knicks scored 17 fast-break points on Saturday in a win over the Raptors, they had 11 tonight, thanks to Smith's finishing ability. Kidd has enjoyed pushing the ball to deliver the goods to his high-flying teammate.
"Yeah, because he's so athletic; he can get to the basket," Kidd said. "I think that him starting to get to the foul line ... that's to our advantage."
Smith has taken that same aggressiveness to the boards. Tonight, he had a season-high four offensive rebounds -- three of them which led to putbacks. Martin, who specializes in that department -- he also had four offensive boards and a couple of follow-up scores tonight -- was impressed.
"Oh yeah," he said. "He was up getting his own misses, which is huge. We've got so many shooters, [opponents] know where the ball is going to go."
Looking ahead, the Knicks will need Smith to create more opportunities for others -- he only had one assist tonight -- but with the team on a five-game winning streak, the most important thing is that Smith is scoring efficiently. That needs to be his bread and butter.