2013 NBA Playoffs: Will J.R. Smith doom the Knicks title chances?


Much has been made of the shooting struggles of New York Knicks superstar Carmelo Anthony so far this postseason and for good reason.

‘Melo is shooting only 39.3 percent in the postseason and has made 50 percent or more of his field-goal attempts just once in eight tries.

May 7, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) reacts on the court against the Indiana Pacers during the first half in game two of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

But while Anthony’s shot selection or lack of passing the rock can be viewed as the biggest reason the Knicks may not advance as far as expected this postseason, ‘Melo is the least of the Knicks problems right now.

His shooting woes may be more of a concern if it weren’t for the fact that J.R. Smith is struggling so bad.

The way Smith closed the regular season made Knicks fans think that he changed and gave them legitimate hope that he was a good compliment to ‘Melo. With Smith and Anthony rolling together, this Knicks team could be viewed as serious threats to an NBA championship.

But just when you think it is safe to trust him, Smith breaks that trust and reverts to his old self.

Smith averaged 23.5 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor overall and 37.7 percent from behind the arc during the Knicks final 16 regular season. A large part of his success was due to the fact that he was getting to the foul line 6.6 times a night.

But the old J.R. has emerged again in the playoffs.

Smith is averaging only 14.4 points on 14.7 shot attempts, while only shooting 34 percent from the floor.

Since he came back from his one-game suspension, Smith has been nothing short of brutal.

The Sixth Man of the Year has connected on only 15-of-57 (26.3 percent) shot attempts and only 7-of-24 (29.1 percent) three-point attempts.

When he was going well, Smith averaged only 2.9 long-range attempts the last month of the season. He’s averaged 5.7 during the postseason and 6.0 since coming back from suspension.

During his last five games, Smith has combined to score only 52 points, but has taken a whopping 57 shots.

That’s not the recipe for winning to say the least.

The Knicks have a long break between Game 2 and Game 3, which should be a good thing, but could turn out to be a bad thing.

Four days in between games gives the immature Smith too much time to do something stupid, as we have seen over the course of the past week.

Instead of partying the day before games, throwing cheap elbows or getting into Twitter spats with fans, Smith should use to time in between games to figure things out.

When Smith shoots over 42 percent from the floor, the Knicks are 32-10 on the season.

To say that Smith isn’t a big part of any chance the Knicks have to win a championship would be foolish. The Knicks need him to be a legitimate No. 2 scoring option and that’s something he hasn’t done this postseason.

Even when Anthony hasn’t been at his best, he’s been nowhere near as awful as Smith has been. Smith has turned into a liability and a distraction, one the Knicks can’t afford to have at this point of the postseason.

Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, Smith’s biggest supporter recently said: “If he’s struggling and I feel the need (to) pull him, I’ll turn to someone else,”(via Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com).

Well if Smith isn’t struggling now, I don’t want to find out what Woodson’s definition of struggling is.

But to that point, the Knicks need Smith on the floor, even though he has become a burden right now.

They can’t win a title or even contend for one without him performing at a high level.

But if the Knicks fail to do so, all fingers will be pointed Anthony’s way as he will end up having to shoulder the blame for yet another postseason failure.

However this time, most of those fingers should be pointed Smith’s way.

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