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Sunday, December 15, 2013
Woody 'desperately' needs J.R. to step up

By Ian Begley

NEW YORK -- As the final minutes of the New York Knicks' win over the Atlanta Hawks ticked away on Saturday, J.R. Smith sat on the bench with a blank look on his face.

"I'm just not playing the way that I wanted to," Smith said after going 1-for-8 in 24 minutes and being benched in the fourth quarter against the Hawks.

Smith hit his third attempt of the game but then went scoreless in his final 21 minutes on the court. He has just two points in his past two games combined.

After Saturday's win, Smith said he was "trying to make some plays on the offensive end for myself and my teammates, but I couldn’t get it going for myself. But we came out with the winm so I’m happy."

J.R. Smith
J.R. Smith rode the bench in the fourth quarter of the Knicks' win over Atlanta on Saturday.
Smith's struggles, though, are starting to concern Mike Woodson.

"J.R. and Iman [Shumpert], I just got to keep working with them and got to pat them a little more and then get them back because I need them desperately to pick it up and play," Woodson said.

Shumpert had another off night on offense against Atlanta, finishing with just three points in 33 minutes. He added six rebounds and two assists, though.

Both guards were nonfactors on Friday in Boston as well.

They combined for 1-for-9 shooting (five points) in 49 minutes. Smith, surprisingly, took just one shot.

Woodson suggested after the game that rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. could get more minutes in light of his strong play. Hardaway Jr. had 13 points on 5-for-10 shooting in 27 minutes against Atlanta. He also had four rebounds and three steals.

"Without a doubt that could happen," Woodson said when asked if Hardaway Jr.'s minutes could increase. "He was great tonight on both ends of the floor."

Smith missed most of training camp while rehabbing from offseason knee surgery. He then served a five-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. So far this season, the reigning sixth man award winner has averaged just 10.6 points on 34 percent shooting. Last season, Smith scored 18.1 points on 42 percent shooting.

Smith was asked on Saturday if his surgically repaired knee is still bothering him.

"It’s alright. I’m playing, so as long as I’m out there, I have to be able to contribute to the team," Smith said. "I don’t really know [if it's affecting me], to be honest. I just have to play better, whether it’s the time off or the knee bothering me.

"Either way, I still have to play better. I’m getting good minutes, so I have nothing to complain about other than myself."

Carmelo cooking: Carmelo Anthony had a game-high 35 points to go along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists.

A night after wilting in the fourth quarter against Boston, Anthony thrived against Atlanta. He had 15 points on 5-for-8 shooting and hit both of his 3s in the fourth … Woodson admonished Andrea Bargnani for passing up open looks on Friday. The 7-footer apparently got the message. Bargnani was aggressive throughout the game against Atlanta, scoring 23 points on 11-for-16 shooting.

"He was letting it go," Woodson said. "He wasn't hesitating." … The Knicks forced 27 Atlanta turnovers … J.R. Smith's younger brother, Chris Smith, had 28 points on 12-for-16 shooting and four assists for Erie, the Knicks' D-League affiliate, on Saturday.

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