BOSTON – The NBA announced Saturday night that J.R. Smith is suspended for Sunday’s Game 4 (1 p.m. ET, ABC) of the Knicks-Celtics series, a result of Smith’s elbow to the head of Jason Terry in the fourth quarter of Game 3.
With Terry playing Smith tightly in the corner, the Sixth Man of the Year turned and intentionally swung his elbow, knocking Terry to the floor. After getting up, Terry tried to go after Smith, but he was held back by teammates and Celtics coach Doc Rivers as Smith retreated to the Knicks bench.
“I was trying to draw the foul,” Smith said after the game. “He reached in one time. I thought he was going to reach in a second time and I was going to try to get a quick shot off, but they made a call that the refs saw and there’s not really much I can do about it.”
Smith’s absence will make it more difficult for the Knicks to complete a series sweep. At 16.3 points per game, he’s New York’s second-leading scorer in the series, a key secondary option when the Celtics are loading up on Carmelo Anthony, and a guy that can make difficult shots when an offensive possession breaks down, a scenario which has played out quite a bit in the first three games. It’s been an ugly series and any offense is good offense.
The Knicks didn’t know Smith’s fate when they met with the media Saturday afternoon, but they knew that a suspension was a possibility.
“If it happens, we got other guys in uniform that’s got to step up and play,” coach Mike Woodson said. “It’s kind of been that way all year when we’ve had injuries. Guys have stepped up and helped us win basketball games. So if J.R.’s missing, we’ve got to be ready to put guys in and play. I don’t know who’s going to play the minutes, but we’ll figure it out as we go along.”
Smith was the only Knick to play the first 80 games of the season before sitting out the final two, and he led the team in minutes played. Despite all their injuries, Smith never started. But Woodson has consistently called on him early in the first quarter.
In Smith’s absence, we should see extended minutes for Jason Kidd (who has averaged only 28 in the first three games) and a bigger role for Steve Novak, who hit his first two threes of the series in Friday’s Game 3 victory.