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New York Knicks Struggle Without J.R. Smith

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Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Knicks started last season with a bang, charging out of the gate to a 6-0 start. Things have been much slower this season, as the Knicks are 1-2 to open the season, and played a terrible game yesterday against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Knicks allowed the Wolves to put up an absurd 40 points in the first quarter, and although the Knicks made it close at the end, their comeback attempt was always destined to fall short.

Carmelo Anthony struggled shooting the ball, going 8-21 from the field and 2-6 from three. Raymond Felton (3-12 FG, 0-3 3FG) and Tim Hardaway, Jr. (3-12 FG, 0-7 3FG) followed suit, and the Knicks as a team shot just 28.1% from deep. Their inefficiency shooting the ball doomed the Knicks, especially their failure with the three point shot they depend so heavily on.

Through three games it is clear that Knicks badly miss the presence of suspended shooting guard J.R. Smith. Smith won the Sixth Man of the Year award last season, averaging 18.1 PPG and shooting 35.6% from three point range. Smith is suspended for the first five games of this season for violating the NBA’s substance abuse policy, and he should make his return to the court on Sunday.

The Knicks need Smith back, because right now they are lacking a second scorer to complement Anthony. Smith was able to draw defensive attention away from Melo last season, and he was the primary scoring threat for the second unit when Anthony was on the bench. Hardway, Jr. has not been able to produce those same results early in this season, and Iman Shumpert and Andrea Bargnani are off to slow starts scoring, particularly Bargnani.

When Smith returns, the Knicks should be able to begin to settle their rotation issues and increase their scoring. Smith will provide another outside shooting threat, and he is also very good in the open court. His presence on the perimeter will allow Anthony to get back to the post game that made him him the league’s leading scorer a season ago.

The Knicks are clearly a much better offensive team when Smith is in the lineup, and his absence is the biggest reason they have struggled to start this season. However, Smith will be back soon, and expect the Knicks to quickly return to form.

Follow Greg Sulik on Twitter @GregSulik or add him to your network on Google

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