J.R. Smith, New York Knicks Heating Up at the Perfect Time

Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks have won seven games in row. Over the course of this winning streak, a lot has happened: Carmelo Anthony returned from a knee injury and appears to be in perfect health, Tyson Chandler has been out with a bulging disc in his neck, and J.R. Smith (17.7 points per game) has played some of his best basketball of the season.

The Knicks needed this. After starting the season 18-6, New York has gone 27-20 and currently holds a record of 45-26, along with a lead in the Atlantic Division. The Knicks have also clinched a play-off spot, and are just a half-game back from claiming the second seed the Eastern Conference going into postseason.

In the absence of Amar’e Stoudemire, Rasheed Wallace, and Kurt Thomas (all of whom are out for the remainder of the regular season), Smith has been absolutely spectacular. He has scored 30+ points in three straight games off the bench, giving the team great shooting performances of 10-18 and 12-18 from the field in his last two games.

How far can Smith and Anthony (27.6 points per game) lead the Knicks? Without Chandler, not much farther than the first round. However, it is assumed that the reigning Defensive Player of the Year will be back before the team embarks on the postseason.

“If [Chandler] needs to sit out the rest of the year, we’re fine with that,” Raymond Felton said. “We just have to make sure he’s all right [for the playoffs].”

Exactly- Felton couldn’t have said it any better. New York is playing well with Kenyon Martin (8.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) subbing in for Chandler, but the teams needs its starting Center back as soon as possible.

The Knicks surprised a lot of people by coming out of the gate as hot as they did, and then disappointed many fans who thought that they were championship contenders with their mid-season skid. Now, as the team, which has been streaky all season long, gets hot at just the right time coming down the stretch, who knows what they can do (if healthy) come play-off time.

For more from Thomas Duffy, follow him on Twitter @ThomasDuffyNBA for articles, news, and all things NBA.

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