Should J.R. Smith Play Through Illness?

By Josh Benjamin
J.R. Smith New York Knicks
Danny Wild-USA Today Sports

Ian Begley of ESPN New York is reporting that New York Knicks sixth man J.R. Smith has a fever of 102, but is still listed as questionable and could very well play in Game 3 against the Indiana Pacers tonight. However, the question presents itself: should he?

The newly crowned Sixth Man of the Year posted a career-best 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game during the regular season, but proved to be incredibly streaky in that he shot 42 percent from the field and 36 percent from three-point range.

That streakiness has recently become a problem in the postseason. Smith is averaging just 14.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in the playoffs, shooting just 34 percent from the field and 30 percent from downtown. In his team’s two games against Indiana, he is averaging only 12.5 points per contest and shooting a ghastly 23 percent from both the floor and long range.

That all being said, I think it’s safe to say that New York does not need to take a risk in such an important game and have the team’s best scorer outside of star forward Carmelo Anthony play sick and have a potentially disastrous game. The Pacers’ on-ball defense is just too good, having helped the team rank second in points allowed during the regular season, and New York will just have to adjust to playing without its best spark off the bench.

This just means that on top of solid scoring production from Anthony, Raymond Felton and even the always-electrifying Iman Shumpert, the Knicks will need to look for help in some of the more unlikely areas. Tyson Chandler will need to be a beast in the paint, and Amar’e Stoudemire will need to make the most of his limited minutes.

On the wing, head coach Mike Woodson needs to be willing to take a chance on both Chris Copeland and Steve Novak, who have been non-factors in the postseason thus far. The best way to beat Indiana’s defense is to have an unstoppable offense, and the Knicks will run the risk of theirs sputtering and stalling if Smith is allowed to play sick and potentially continue his cold streak. While there is always the possibility that he could break out of it instantly, Michael Jordan he is not.

Thus, better for him to stay at the hotel tonight and rest up for Game 4 so that he can be back at full strength and more likely to break out of his slump.

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