INDIANAPOLIS – J.R. Smith hasn’t played well since he elbowed Jason Terry in Game 3 of the first round. In Game 3 of the conference semifinals, Smith might not play at all.
Under the weather with a 102-degree fever, the Sixth Man of the Year missed the Knicks’ shootaround Saturday morning and is questionable for Game 3 Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
“I don’t know if he’s going to play tonight,” Knicks coach Mike Woodson said. “If he don’t, somebody else has got to step up and help us win.”
The Knicks will have Amar’e Stoudemire for the first time in two months, which gives them the ability to play big for more than the five minutes they have in each of the first two games. But they also have the backcourt depth to deal with Smith’s potential absence and stay small. Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Iman Shumpert have all been playing well, and Jason Kidd, though he’s missed his last 14 shots, is still a critical part of this team’s success.
“I feel really good now about how Iman’s moving, jumping, and all that,” Woodson said. “So he could pick up some extra minutes, along with Pablo. Raymond’s already playing big minutes and I’m not going to forget about Kidd, because you’ve got three days of rest.”
If Smith doesn’t play, or if he plays and is ineffective, it will be important that Carmelo Anthony doesn’t try too much. When Smith was suspended for Game 4 of the first round, Anthony may have thought he had to beat the Boston Celtics by himself. He shot 10-for-35 in what was the Knicks’ worst offensive game of the postseason.
“I don’t want to put that pressure on myself to say that I have to do more out there,” Anthony said of Smith’s possible absence. “We gotta figure it out. We’ll see how the game goes, see the course of the game, see where it takes us.”
Of course, Anthony seemed confident that Smith would play in Game 3, even though he didn’t know the details of Smith’s condition.
“J.R. gonna play tonight,” Anthony said. “We can get him right. That’s what we have team doctors for, as far as medicine and things like that. He’ll be all right … hopefully.”