Smith was benched for conduct detrimental to the team in the Knicks’ last game, a win Thursday night against the Miami Heat. He returned Saturday in Philadelphia and finished with 14 points on 5-8 shooting with six assists in just over 27 minutes.
Some may complain that Smith’s punishment wasn’t strong enough to send a message, and I agree, but the Knicks are better when Smith is on the floor, and he proved that tonight.
As for the team as a whole, they continue to improve and get to the level they were expected to be at when the year started. Their record stands at 14-22, but they are just a .5 game out of the last playoff spot. In the last week and a half, they are 5-1, with road wins against the San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks and 76ers, and home wins against the Detroit Pistons and defending champion Miami. Their only loss in that time came in a two-point loss on the road against the Houston Rockets.
If Smith plays like he did tonight with Carmelo Anthony, who is always going to put up points, even on an off-night, and Amar’e Stoudemire, who had 21 points on Saturday, the Knicks have a chance to make the playoffs. The only thing that they have to do is keep Tyson Chandler healthy and get Andrea Bargnani more involved, and they have a chance to make a serious run in the playoffs.