New York Knicks – When J.R. Smith Matches His Potential

No Carmelo Anthony is the perfect opportunity for J.R. Smith to lead the New York Knicks and show off his potential with not one but two impossible game tying and game winning shots, making us wonder once again why this guy is only a sixth man and how much more he can be when his game is on.

Few players can get hot like J.R. Smith, who is athletic and creative with the basketball as they come. Problem is, on most nights it doesn’t exactly come together with his selfishness on the floor, and knack for winding up with the toughest possible shot to choose from. He finished with 27 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 5 steals in a game the Knicks looked destined to lose, but finally found a way to win despite not having their best player on the floor.

Playing against the Phoenix Suns is a good way to get some players their outside shot back to normal, and the Knicks shot better than 40%, as Jason Kidd was left wide open again and again, having no problem moving the chains without his partner in the back court, Raymond Felton. Kidd, who many forgot was actually capable of big nights like this, finished with 23 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists. The finale was all about Smith, no matter how rare it seems to have Kidd so good on offense these days.

Down 95-97, one was Smith bumping chests with his defender, and while falling backwards in the fade away, having enough strength in his arms to keep a balanced shot. Jason Kidd came up with the big defensive play, knocking a pass that should have reached a wide open Marcin Gortat under the basket. This led to a Sebastian Telfair turnover (that’s what you get when you have Telfair running your potential game winning play) and the chance for Smith to win the game.

And that’s what he did. Got the ball, not stopping and moving away from the basket into the corner, with two hands in his face, and still making the shot. Lucky? Maybe, maybe just a bit, but not if you ask him.

It was premeditated. I was walking around the court going, ‘You are going to make it, you are going to make it.’ I was trying to get my form ready before I even thought about taking it. I was trying to go through my mechanics in my head, get my shoulders square to the basket and just let it fly.

Jared Dudley had a career high of 36 points for the Suns, but that was forgotten. Having to play without Goran Dragic for most of the game also had to do with Smith, although it’s unclear if that was part of the dirtiness that loomed over NBA games (Howard on Faried, Wade on Sessions) or just an accident. Whatever it was, it seemed Smith had an unorthodox hat trick of big plays, completing the two big shots he had at the end.

In the long run, the Knicks aren’t going to be able to do much without Anthony and Felton. Smith is a coin toss because of his style and persona. Sometimes he’s on a different level than the rest of the guys on the floor, but you can’t always tell if it’s going to be for the better or for the worst.