The New York Knicks have improbably found themselves in the thick of the playoff-race leading into the last couple of weeks of the 2013-14 NBA regular season. That could be a construct of how awful the Eastern Conference has been this year, but could also very well be due to the fact that the Knicks have looked like a basketball teams more often as of late.
Obviously this team has still been geared around Carmelo Anthony being their best player and an offensive monster, but it’s hard to deny the correlation between their turnaround and when reigning NBA Sixth Man of the Year, J.R. Smith, decided to wake up from a season-long slumber and play quality basketball.
Despite a seeming change in energy-level, the biggest change for Smith is that shots have just started falling. Through the first 51 games of the season, Smith was having one of the worst years of his career as he was averaging just 12.9 points, four rebounds and 3.1 assists per game while abysmally shooting 38.8 percent from the floor and 37.2 percent from three.
In the 18 games since the start of March, though, Smith has been on a tear. The guard has averaged 16.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and three assists while shooting 46.5 percent from the floor and a blistering 42.1 percent from the floor. His production has helped carry the Knicks to the hunt for the eight-seed. However, no one joined him on Friday night in a loss to the Washington Wizards.
While Smith erupted for 32 points and three rebounds on 12-23 shooting from the field and 8-16 shooting from long-range, no one else on the Knicks scored more than 16 points and Melo contributed just 10 points on 5-14 shooting and without getting to the foul line at least once.
This has hardly been the case all season, but the Knicks are going to have to step up and help J.R. Smith out on a consistent basis. Smith is playing like a guy who wants to be in the postseason. It’d be great for the Knicks if his teammates would join him down the stretch in big games like on Friday.