Thursday, March 28, 2013
The Incredible J.R. Smith
By Ian Begley
With his first back-to-back 30-plus scoring nights of his career, J.R. Smith (flanked by Carmelo Anthony and Iman Shumpert) has exploded for 67 points in the Knicks' past two wins.
There's good J.R. Smith, bad J.R. Smith and then there's the J.R. Smith we saw on Wednesday night: incredible.
The New York Knicks' sixth man exploded for 35 points on 10-for-18 shooting to lead the 'Bockers to a 108-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies, their sixth straight.
"I don't know what he's eating for breakfast or dinner or whatever it is but we need him to keep doing it," teammate Kenyon Martin said. "He's putting us on his back."
Smith's game against the Grizzlies comes on the heels of an efficient 32-point night against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, putting his two-game total at 67 points. He has made 23 of his 42 attempts in that span.
"He's dialed in right now," Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony said. "That's the J.R. we know about."
That's the thing. The J.R. we all know about has been consistently inconsistent in his nine seasons in the NBA.
But that hasn't been the case during the Knicks' winning streak. Smith has averaged 24.6 points on 52 percent shooting over the past six games.
"He's just being aggressive as they come now," Martin said.
That continued Wednesday against Memphis. Smith shot 13 free throws against the Grizzlies and six of his 10 field goals were in the paint.
"Instead of settling and shooting jumpers, jumpers, jumpers, I’m doing what [Mike Woodson] wants me to do and what my teammates like to see me do," Smith said.
Woodson has been on top of Smith since he took over as head coach last March. The player and coach have what Smith calls a "funny" relationship -- but it's one that has helped Smith play some of the best basketball of his career.
"It’s crazy. Off the court it’s like father-son. On the court we bump heads sometimes. He cusses me out, I cuss him out and we just go from there," Smith said. "It’s fun. I love playing for him."
Said Woodson: "I try to coach him and be demanding, but I see something maybe other coaches didn’t see in terms of his ability to score the basketball.
"I think you’ve got to put him in the right positions and you’ve got to be demanding with him and not let him off the hook, and I’ve tried not to do that with him. Sometimes I can get away with things I say with him and sometimes I can’t."
Whatever Woodson has said to Smith of late has worked. The New Jersey product has scored 30 or more points in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. He leads the NBA in points per game for players off the bench (17.4) and is the leader of a Knicks second unit that's second in the NBA in scoring (40.8 ppg).
"I think he’s starting to figure out some things and he's mixing his game up," Woodson said. "He’s not just shooting jump shots. He's taking it to the hole, he’s rebounding, he’s making a conscious effort to defend. He’s still got, I think, a ways to go, but he’s getting there."