A huge reason for the New York Knicks early success has been the play from their sixth man J.R. Smith.
Smith has become one of the best scorers off the bench in the NBA and is easily in the early lead for Sixth Man of the Year Award.
The tatted-up 27-year-old shooting guard might be Mike Woodson’s go-to guy right after Carmelo Anthony. Smith wasn’t always this lethal, so what has changed in his game? Here are some keys beyond J.R. Smith’s spectacular scoring run.
In the last six games, Smith has put up elite scoring numbers. He is averaging 25.5 points per game, scoring above 25 points in five of these six games. These numbers would put him sixth in the league in scoring. One factor why Smith is on this scoring run is that he is playing starter minutes. In these past six games, Smith is averaging 38 minutes per game. You can’t score if you don’t play and J.R. is taking full advantage of his immense playing time.
Another reason why J.R. is carrying the bulk of the Knicks’ offense is the trust and confidence his head coach has in him. It’s no secret Woodson and Smith have a great relationship, as some say they act like father and son sometimes.
Woodson was quoted earlier in the year saying he was “yelling at him to shoot the ball” and that he wants 20 points out of Smith off the bench. This will come as a surprise to those who have seen Smith play since they know J.R. is never shy to shoot the ball.
The coach went on to say “Shooters are going to take some bad shots. That is the nature of the game. I don’t mind that, as long as he is defending and doing the things to help us win. Offensively, I have to help him because he is so talented in terms of being able to create a shot and make shots himself.”
Smith joked it was the first time in his career for being asked to shoot more, but Woodson has been pretty much on point so far. After Anthony, the Knicks really don’t have that second scorer. Sure players like Jason Kidd, Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, and hopefully now Amar’e Stoudemire are going to have big nights scoring, but Woodson needs consistency out of both ‘Melo and Smith for his offense to succeed.
Another reason why Smith went on this scoring run was that Anthony was injured so you know Woodson really needed more points out of his shooting guard. In the three games Carmelo missed, Smith shot 72 times, averaging 27 points. Of course his two most memorable shots were in Phoenix where he had both the game-tying and game-winning buckets. Without Woodson’s belief in Smith I don’t think he makes those shots.
Smith is a great scorer and looks like he has matured. I think he realizes this is the year he can contribute to an NBA Championship team. He has seen the club scene and the nightlife perks being a NBA player brings; now it’s time to play some serious ball. His teammates are mature and are motivated to bring New York a deep playoff run, and Smith is a huge part of that goal.