J.R. Smith Makes Good From Bad


NEW YORK — J.R. Smith takes the shots you’re not supposed to take, the shots good defenses are designed to force.

Mid-range, off-the-dribble, step-back, contested, fade-away jumpers*. They’re bad shots, but they often go in. And the Boston Celtics could really use a player like Smith right now. But Smith belongs to the Knicks, a big reason why New York holds a 2-0 series lead.

* Maybe these need a twitter hashtag: #JRSMROTDSBCFAJ

In none of his previous eight seasons had Smith taken a greater percentage of his shots from mid-range (between the paint and the 3-point line) than he did this season (35.5 percent). In none of his previous eight seasons has he been assisted on a lower percentage of his buckets than he was this season (36.1 percent).

So basically, Smith took the worst shots of his career this season. But in none of his previous eight seasons has Smith been so trusted by his coach. He led the second best team in the Eastern Conference in minutes and, oh yeah, won the Sixth Man of the Year award.

We’ve talked often about how improved ball movement has led to the Knicks’ efficient offense, but Smith still took 1,249 of their shots and they had the lowest assist rate in the league. Individual play was still a key ingredient and they wouldn’t be where they are without isolation basketball.

Carmelo Anthony was Game 2’s leading scorer, but Tuesday was totally Smith’s night. He was presented his trophy in front of the Madison Square Garden crowd. He drained a mid-range, off-the-dribble, step-back, contested, fade-away jumper the first time he touched the ball. And he capped off the first quarter with a sequence in which he drained another mid-range, off-the-dribble, step-back, contested, fade-away jumper, forced Paul Pierce into a turnover, and drained a 36-footer at the buzzer, before going full plumage for his adoring fans.

Smith hasn’t exactly been efficient this series: 34 point on 34 shots. The words “J.R. Smith” and “efficient” don’t belong in the same sentence, really. He’s 1-for-9 on 3-pointers from above the break, with the one being the 36-footer.

But this has been the ugliest series of the 2013 postseason (the two teams have combined to score just 93 points per 100 possessions), and that’s probably not going to change as the series heads to Boston for Games 3 (Friday, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN) and 4. Any offense is good offense in these games, especially when the opponent is doing its best to take away your primary options.

On that note, it’s interesting that Smith is 0-for-6 with Anthony on the bench in this series thus far, and 14-for-28 with Anthony on the floor. It’s a very small sample size, but it’s still interesting. Smith was a slightly better shooter with Anthony on the bench in the regular season.

There will probably come a time in these playoffs when Smith shoots the Knicks out of a game, maybe this weekend in Boston, maybe down the road against the Pacers or Heat. New York is 11-13 this season when he misses more than 10 shots.

But that’s what you get with Smith. The good comes with the bad.

Maybe that’s why Knicks fans love the guy so much.


  1. NYK=Brooklyn Nets says:

    Every team can play defense but few are consistent and exceptional (like Bulls and Heat). Given it is playoffs, of course everyone would step up their D.

  2. Eric says:

    You say the knicks don’t know defense. But have you watched the 1 st two playoff games?
    The knicks are clearly an above average defending team

  3. NYK=Brooklyn Nets says:

    Funny how many similarities does NYK share with Brooklyn Nets. Both teams doesnt know the word DEFENSE. Both teams have a bunch of overpaid, spoiled players (except Lopez) and yeah both teams are from New York.

  4. eris says:

    I would give him/Woodson some credit, his shot selection may not have vastly improved as far as where he takes it, but he’s a bit more selective now wrt how he’s being defended. His pt% hasn’t improved much from last year, but he also played much more minutes this year

  5. Lover of the game/ Knick fan since Ewing says:

    Good point jason. you cant name 15 SG better than JR, now superstar…. not yet but if he stays in NY he has a chance to be da new john starks. if u cant be batman then robin aint so bad. NY”s big 3 is melo. chandler, & JR. stat has to earn his spot back

  6. gerald martin says:

    j.r. smith has been a key part of the reason the knicks will take care of the celtics. and then with the way the format is they will get to watch the heat wear themselves out with the bulls. so i see a good chance that the knicks will make it to the finals.

  7. Patty says:

    J.R. could be in any starting line up for the NBA.

    J.R. is a Super Star.

    He is better than most of the players in the NBA.

    • bigwes95 says:

      do you watch any basketball, patty? JR is no where near superstar level, some people don’t even consider James harden a superstar (i don’t). smith isn’t even all-star level! he could probably start for most team, but don’t say he’s a superstar or anywhere near it when he’s not even an all star. he’s is not better than most players in the league, and how many is most for you? or how high does he rank in your player ranking, is a better way to put it. like Lebron 1, Durant 2, Chris Paul 3, Bryant 4, etc…

      • Jason says:

        JR Smith is at least a top 50 player in the NBA. Seeing as there are about 400 players in the league, he is technically better than most players.

  8. tyletaylor says:

    we need to take a look at his on court efficiency on both ends of the floor in the final 4 min. of the game in close games. Because i have seen him do mostly positive things and be clutch in whatever he does it. not just shooting clutch 3s but actual steals, or stops, or rebounds, or offensive rebounds. there is a reason y he won 6th man of the year by a landslide. he is slated to be in the top 5-7 2 guards in the league.

  9. tyletaylor says:

    jr smith has his good moments along with this bad moments. but there needs to be an efficiency stat for final 3-4 min. of a close game with him on the floor(which is almost every game this season). because he has hit daggers and not often has he made a bonehead move. a 6th man is supposed to come in and get the offense kicking once coachs sub start going in and out. Ill take smith over jamal crawford any damn day.

  10. illone says:

    Are you a secret New York fan that wants to defame JR in hopes to keep his Free Agent price down to the $5 millioin the Knicks are able to pay? If so, as a Melo fan, I like your style!

  11. theholyspectator says:

    ughhm ok?