Knicks Win Seventh in Row (and 45th of Season)

Published on: 30th March, 2013

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JR Smith
Smith is playing the best ball of his career  | read this item

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NEW YORK – When J.R. Smith was drafted out of high school into the N.B.A. in 2004, the New Orleans Hornets must have envisioned a player who could both shoot the outside jumper, have the quickness to drive hard to the hoop when he saw an opening, and defend shooting guards or small forwards with alacrity.

For any number of reasons, those things never really panned out for Smith, not consistently anyway. He frustrated his coaches constantly, particularly George Karl at Denver (where he also played with Carmelo Anthony), because it was always felt his talent and gifts should have led him down the path of superstardom.

Now, it may be unfair to Smith to start up those predictions again, nine years into his N.B.A tenure at the ripe old age of 27, of how his unique set of skills and talents should place him in the pantheon of the sport but maybe, just maybe, he’s finally reaching the lofty levels expected of him with his fourth professional team, the Knicks.

Smith, Mike Woodson’s first man off the bench, has lately become the Knicks first man in the post-game scoring column. Smith led the way again tonight with 37 points, the third consecutive game in which he exceeded 30-points to lead the New Yorkers to a 111-102 win over the hapless Charlotte Bobcats, who, with this loss fell 40 games behind first-place Miami in the Eastern Conference.

 

Smith is playing the best ball of his career

 

In front of a Friday night full house at Madison Square Garden, the Knicks essentially toyed with the Bobcats, whose record fell to a league-worst, 17-55, with Smith playing at a level he hasn’t seen, correction, nobody has seen from him in his entire NBA career.

“I am trying to get to the cup (basket) as much as I can and convert on opportunities and find my teammates,” said Smith. “I’ve got a great cast With Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and Ray (Felton) we have so many threats out there. You never know who is going to get it going and right now, it is my turn.”

The Knicks have now won seven games in a row for the first time this season. They had begun the campaign with a six-game run.

“We are in a great groove,” Smith added. “We are starting to jump out on teams early. Communication is up, we are getting to the free-throw line and making free-throws. We are tough to beat that way.”

Smith is the first Knick since the 1970-71 season to have three straight 30-point games when coming off the bench. It’s also the first time in Smith’s career he’s scored 30 or more points in back-to-back-to-back games.

Smith was helped tonight by his new first sidekick, Anthony, who scored 32 and is not used to sharing the first option position on offense, and by Raymond Felton, who added 18.

Smith’s teammates are excited by what they are seeing out of Smith as the Knicks head down the stretch of this season.

“He is focused,” said Anthony. “He is dialed in, locked in. He is playing extremely well and his confidence is sky high. I have played with him for probably nine seasons. I have never seen him play the way he is playing right now. His focus level…..I haven’t seen that in a long time.”

The Knicks jumped out to a halftime lead of 69-47, led by Smith’s 9 of 11 shooting from the field for his 23 points while Anthony chipped in with 17 of his own.

The Knicks built a 30-point lead, 58-28, with 5:47 remaining in the second quarter and even though the Bobcats made a second half run to cut the lead to just 7 points with two minutes left in the game, you never got the feeling this game was anything but resolved in the Knicks favor.

Gerald Henderson tied a career high with 35 points for the Bobcats. Kemba Walker added 16, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 14 and Ben Gordon finished with 12.

After shooting 62.5 percent (25 of 40) from the field and 75 percent (9 of 12) from 3-point range in the first half, the Knicks went cold in the third quarter, going 5 of 18 from the field and missing all four shots behind the arc.

The Bobcats took advantage and pulled within 83-69 on Jeffery Taylor‘s free throws with 39 seconds left in the quarter.

However, Felton’s layup and three free throws by Smith gave the Knicks an 88-69 lead after three quarters.

The Knicks face the Celtics at home this Sunday. It will be payback time for Boston, which lost to the Knicks the last time they faced each other in Boston.

 

 

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