So what’s gotten into J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks? Smith and the Knicks have won 7 straight games and are now back in 2nd place, only four percentage points over the Indiana Pacers. Each team is vying for position in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Knicks are 11 1/2 games behind the 1st place Miami Heat and are now 19 games over .500. You would think that the credit for this latest stint of success would go to great defense and the usual clutch play from the team’s best player, Carmelo Anthony. The defense is still there, but as a pleasant surprise to Knick fans their often erratic and inconsistent 6th man J.R. Smith is leading the way.
Anthony has given the Knicks his usual consistent stellar play, but what has fueled this recent Knick winning streak has been the new found consistency and efficiency by Smith and much needed defensive presence from Kenyon Martin. Smith over the 7 game winning streak has been in the spot light. Those wanting to know what has changed in his game need only look directly at his change in shot selection. For the majority of the season Smith has frustrated coaches and fans with his dependance on the 3 pointer. Knicks head coach Mike Woodson stepped in and demanded that Smith drive to the basket more often. Over the winning streak, Smith has made 47% of his shots from inside the paint. He consistently beats his defender off the dribble and takes shots closer to the basket. Ironically this has opened up better opportunities from the arc. Smith is not just on a hot shooting streak. He has made noticeable adjustments to his game. If he makes those adjustments permanent, maybe he can continue his increase in production and efficiency. On Friday night against the Charlotte Bobcats, Smith turned his best performance with his 3rd straight 30 point game. That is a record for any Knick non starter. He dazzled with 12-18 shooting from the field and 37 total points.
The Knicks had not been a threat to miss the playoffs, but fans wanted to know if they would finally get out of the 1st round. With a rash of injuries to key players like Rasheed Wallace, Amar’e Stoudemire, Raymond Felton (who has returned) and more recently Tyson Chandler, it was not looking promising. So the timing of Smith’s recent streak of efficiency could not be better.
Another unexpected bonus to the Knick team has been the acquisition of Kenyon Martin. Martin has turned his 10 day contract into a starting role for the time being. He has provided timely rebounding, blocked shots and all around smart play. Who would have thought the Knicks could pull off a seven game winning streak while Tyson Chandler was out with a (neck) injury. Chandler has been listed as day to day and there’s talk of him playing this sunday against the Boston Celtics. What a great time to get hot. Maybe the recent New York Heat can carry them to an Eastern Conference Finals showdown with the Miami Heat this year.
Tony Graham is a New York Knicks writer for RantSports.com.
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