Mar. 27, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) celebrates on the court after shooting a three-pointer against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

J.R. Smith: Love him or hate him, Knicks Sixth man has sparked winning streak

Following a loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on St. Patrick’s Day, many New York Knicks fans had about all they could watch out of J.R. Smith.

His Dr. Jekyll, Mr. Hyde act that has been going on all season hit rock bottom with a 4-for-20 performance from the floor, with about 18 of those attempts coming on awful and forced shot attempts.

Mar 13, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith (8) during the first half against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. The Nuggets won 117-94.Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

That was the case for most of the month of March, as Smith didn’t seem to care much about playing team basketball, forcing up bad jumpers on a regular basis, practically shooting the Knicks out of any chance of winning games.

The Knicks won only four of their first 10 games in the month of March and Smith was a big reason why, though not the only reason as injuries and lack of defensive intensity played a major role as well. But Smith shot only above 40 percent in four of those games, and shot under 35 percent from the floor five different times. For a volume shooter such as Smith, that is simply unacceptable.

But something has clicked for Smith lately.

The Knicks are in the middle of a six-game win streak and that is due large in part to Smith’s outstanding play.

During the win streak, Smith has made 50-of-97 attempts from the floor. If you’re scoring at home, that’s close to 52 percent.

Smith has averaged 24.7 points per game during the win streak, but the key is how efficient he has been. You can make the case that he has never played better basketball for a six game stretch and it is all due to being efficient and taking good shots.

So what’s been the difference?

It’s as simple as taking the ball to the basket.

Great scorers, which Smith is, thrive by getting to the basket. They don’t live off of their jump shot.

Smith will try and fool people into thinking that he is a great three-point shooter, but in reality he is not.

He’s only shot 36.6 percent from behind the arc during his career and only connecting 34.9 percent of the time this season.

All that says is Smith is a decent shooter, who shouldn’t live and die with his jumper. He can get hot sometimes, but more often than not he is the type of guy that can shoot a team out of a game, something Smith has done a lot of.

But when Smith is taking the ball to the basket and taking his three’s within the flow of the Knicks offense, then he can be downright lethal with the rock in his hands.

It looks as if he is getting that message loud and clear.

Of the 97 shot attempts Smith has taken the past six games, only 26  of them have been three-point attempts, which amounts to only 4.3 per game.

Looking back at the past 10 games, where Smith struggled, he jacked up 84 three’s.

Another thing about Smith taking the ball to the rim aggressively is the fact that he is getting to the free-throw line.

During the Knicks recent winning streak, Smith has gotten to the charity stripe 48 times (8.0 per game), which is big because he is a very good free-throw shooter. In the 10 games prior, Smith got to the line a total of 36 times (3.6 per game)

The Knicks are thriving because the change in Smith’s game.

If he keeps this up, the Knicks will be a very dangerous team come playoff time.

However if he starts jacking up jumper after jumper again, close your eyes because things will get ugly.

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