The New York Knicks have now ripped off 7 wins in a row and counting, led by JR Smith maxing out his endless athletic potential and finally locking away “Bad JR” for an extended period of time. Smith now has 3 straight games of more than 30 points and is attacking the basket more and shooting a higher percentage than he ever has in his career. Here’s 12 thoughts on the rolling Knicks and JR…
1. To see JR Smith play the way he has played the past two weeks is a startling development to say the least. Consider this, in the past 6 games (all Knicks wins), Smith has shot at least 50% from the field and for a total of (57/102, 56%)…this is JR Smith we are talking about…the guy known to dribble the shot clock down and chuck an off-balanced jumper. In those 6 games, he is averaging 27.5 points and has taken 3 or less three pointers in 4 of the games. It is a new offensive player who is aggressively attacking the basket, drawing fouls and hitting his free throws (42/50 from the line). When Smith plays like this, he is a legitimate threat to score 30 points every night, which is a scary thing for Knicks opponents considering there is that Carmelo Anthony guy on the other wing, ready to drop 30 at will also.
2. There is no question this version of JR Smith, put with a healthy Carmelo and Tyson Chandler when he returns makes the Knicks the second best team in the East and the most legitimate threat to the Miami Heat. They have the ability to score with them and have Chandler as a force they don’t have an answer for down low. Are they likely to take them past 6 games still? Probably not but if you can steal one in Miami, who knows?
3. Smith has been getting all the press from this recent winning streak but let’s not ignore Pablo Prigioni being 7-0 as a starter. He isn’t filling up the stat sheet with any head turning numbers but his presence is helping the team’s ball movement and offensive flow. It is also allowing Jason Kidd to become a strong bench player who is guiding the second unit’s offense.
4. Iman Shumpert is also slowly returning to his rookie year form. We are seeing the athleticism in his ability to get up and down the court, along with the defensive presence he showed last year. He is also consistently knocking down his open three pointers, a huge bonus to the Knicks offense. During the Knicks 7 game winning streak he is 12/22 from 3 point land. If he can shoot over 50% from three consistently, the Knicks are going to be right at 100 points or over on most nights.
5. Chris Copeland has finally locked down a rotation spot as a solid bench scorer. Copeland’s all around game is not fully polished yet but he plays aggressively and confidently on offense, providing the Knicks 2nd unit a needed shot in the arm from time to time.
6. The Knicks now own a 3.5 game over Brooklyn in the Atlantic with only 11 games left on their schedule and 10 on Brooklyn’s schedule. The remaining 11 aren’t kind overall but they still have Cleveland, Washington and Charlotte, along with the KG-less Celtics tomorrow. If the Knicks handle their business and play even .500 ball down the stretch, they should wrap up at least the #3 seed.
7. All it takes is a 5-6 finish for the Knicks to end with a 50 win season.
8. Barring something unlikely, it appears the Knicks will either play Boston, Atlanta or Chicago in the first round. There isn’t a person out there who shouldn’t prefer Atlanta, followed by Boston and then Chicago as the least desirable opponent.
9. It wouldn’t be surprising not to see Tyson Chandler for another few games. The Knicks have a back to back Tuesday and Wednesday, so they could hold him out until Friday against Milwaukee. Caution is critical here, they need Tyson as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs. If you can keep winning without him, why rush him back?
10. Get used to seeing the Knicks on national TV in the coming days. They have Miami on TNT Tuesday Night, Atlanta on ESPN Wednesday Night and than Oklahoma City on ABC Sunday.
11. Steve Novak appears to somewhat be getting back into a rhythm. He has 9 three pointers over the past 5 games, including two games where he hit three of them.
12. JR for 6th man of the year? He keeps this up, it isn’t out of the question.