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Sunday, March 31, 2013
Statistical look: J.R. to the tin

By Ian Begley

Leave it to veteran Jason Kidd to break down J.R. Smith's remarkable run in its simplest terms.

"He hasn't taken a bad shot in three games," Kidd said on Friday night.

And he's 100 percent right.

Smith's shot selection has improved markedly during his hot streak.

Gone are the contested, fallaway 20-footers. The new normal for Smith is a hard drive to the basket.

J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith has played his best basketball of late.
"I'm starting to come into my own a little bit," Smith said. "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, get to the paint."

Smith seemed to get his driver's license on March 18, a day after missing 16 of 20 shots in a loss to the Clippers.

The next night against Utah, the Knicks made a concerted effort to get to the rim. He shot 10 free throws and poured in 20 points to help the short-handed Knicks to a win over the Jazz.

Since then, Smith has gotten to the rim on a consistent basis.

Over the past seven games, 34 percent of his shots have been in the paint. In the past three games alone, an eye-popping 58 percent of his attempts have been in the paint.

Prior to the Knicks' winning streak, Smith was taking just 25 percent of his shots in the paint, per ESPN Stats and Information.

He's also drawing eight fouls per game over his past three games, compared to 2.8 per game prior to the Knicks' winning streak.

So it makes sense that Smith, a fantastic scorer, has poured in at least 30 points in the past three games. (He's the first player since 1990 to do so off the bench).

Said Kenyon Martin: "He's not settling."

Smith's also averaging an astounding 1.28 points per play over the past three games, compared to 0.91 points per play prior to the Knicks' winning streak, per ESPN Stats and Information.

To put that in perspective, Kevin Durant had averaged 1.11 points per play per game and LeBron James had averaged 1.10 points per play per game entering play Wednesday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Smith's success is, without question, a result of his newfound focus on attacking the rim.

Approximately 46 percent (48 of 104) of Smith’s points over the past three games have come on drives to the basket, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“He’s focused, locked in, dialed in," Carmelo Anthony said Friday. “His confidence is sky-high and we’re following his lead. I’ve played in the league 10 seasons, maybe nine of them with J.R., and I’ve never seen him play the way he’s playing now."

The Knicks are a different team when Smith is the unquestioned second option on offense. The question now is, can he keep it up? Will Smith continue to attack the basket after teams adjust to his drives?

"I'm going to keep going to the basket, that's for sure, so [teams are] going to have to figure that out," he said.

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