After Chicago snapped Miami’s 27-game winning streak Tuesday night, the Knicks took over the current longest winning streak in the NBA with six. It’s no 27 but what this six game winning streak shows is something extremely significant. Every member of the team is stepping up in the absence of Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire but J.R. Smith has not only risen to the occasion, he has altered his offensive game and maximized his talents.
In the beginning of the season J.R. Smith got off to an extremely hot start and was a frontrunner for the 6th man of the year award. Although his success was an incredible sight to witness, Knicks fans could not help but feel a sense of frustration when he would sometimes get caught up in his old habits of dribbling more than he should and resorting to a low-percentage fade away jumper. Everybody knows that there is an incredibly gifted talent in Smith but sometimes he would interfere with his own abilities.
During this six game stretch it appears that something in Smith has changed. He is more readily squaring up to the hoop when he ball gets in his hands and preparing to attack the rim as opposed to settling for mid-range jumpers. Smith’s athleticism, quickness and ball handling play a tremendous role in his success to penetrate defenses and earn trips to the free throw line. In the past two games, Smith has gone 17-18 from the free throw line, which has played a major part in putting up back-to-back thirty point performances.
Smith’s newly found success has also included offensive rebounding. He is getting to where he needs to be and extending Knicks possessions. Smith had four offensive rebounds in Tuesday night’s 108-101 win over the Memphis Grizzlies.
The question now surfaces as to whether the Knicks can count on this J.R. Smith for the playoffs and there is a lot to suggest that they can. Mike Woodson has taken a strong interest in Smith since the Knicks have signed him and ever since then Smith has continually improved his offensive game. Smith is also a player that thrives when others depend on him; it fuels his offensive flow. The last time the Knicks played the Heat they blew a sixteen point halftime lead mainly because LeBron James was assigned to Carmelo Anthony in the second half and it plugged the Knicks offense. This is why the Knicks will be relying heavily on Smith. Taking the pressure off Carmelo Anthony and forcing defenses to respect another talented scorer will greatly open up the Knicks offense and increase their chances of success.