J.R. Smith Wins NBA Player of the Night After Propelling NY Knicks to 3-0 Start

Dan FavaleFeatured ColumnistNovember 6, 2012

Photo via espn.go.com.
Photo via espn.go.com.

The NBA loves its Mondays.

On what is supposedly the most downtrodden day of the week, the Association delivered a handful of impressive performances.

O.J. Mayo dropped 32 points and continued his hot shooting from beyond the arc to propel the Dallas Mavericks to a blowout victory over the Portland Trail Blazers, while LeBron James' 23 points and 11 rebounds did the same for the Miami Heat against the Phoenix Suns.

Then, we had the New York Knicks, who remained undefeated after they blew out the Philadelphia 76ers, led by the man covered in ink—J.R. Smith.

No, seriously, true story.

On a night when it seemed like the Knicks were preparing to fall back down to earth, Smith wouldn't let them, with 17 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and one block on 46.7 percent shooting.

New York saw a bevy of its players pitch in, including Carmelo Anthony, Ronnie Brewer and Tyson Chandler, yet no one was as active on both ends of the floor as Smith.

It's not that he dropped 17 points, it's that he did so efficiently and while playing top-tier perimeter defense.

Smith has fought to shoot above 40 percent from the field for his career, yet now here he is, shooting almost 50 percent from the field against a divisional rival. Not only that, but he continued his lights-out shooting from behind the arc, converting on 50 percent of his attempts, which puts him at 61.5 percent for the season.

However he's no longer merely a scorer on the offensive end of the floor—he's become something more, a facilitator. A legitimate passing threat.

Not only did Smith drop another five dimes last night, but he's averaging 4.3 on the season, a career high for the historically shoot-first, shoot-second, pass-third guard.

Simply put, he wouldn't let up on that end of the floor on Monday night; he kept piling it on the suddenly reeling Sixers.

And his emphatic and-one dunk in the middle of the fourth quarter was merely the cherry atop the first cherry that was on top of the icing on Smith's freshly baked offensive cake.

Now, usually, we would be forced to stop there. But we can't, because Smith was an animal on defense as well.

Though he grabbed two steals, the real noteworthy, borderline surprise occurrence of the night was his aggression on the glass. 

Yes, he grabbed seven rebounds, but it was the way he was battling down low with the likes of bigger and stronger players that really drew attention.

An even closer look shows us that Smith's overall defensive commitment—from the way he fights over screens down to his footwork in general—has changed. In a good way.

He helped hold Philadelphia's entire backcourt to a combined 13-of-45 from the field, just a 28.9 percent clip.

Smith even deviated from his league-wide reputation at one point, actually walking away from a potential bout—on the fifth of November no less—with Philadelphia's Royal Ivey.

Impressed? So am I.

He simply excelled in all facets of the game, putting forth a performance that was truly invaluable.

Sure, 'Melo dropped 21, and there were a total of seven Knicks who scored in double figures, but this victory doesn't happen, the team doesn't fight back from an early 10-point deficit, New York doesn't start the season 3-0 for the first time in nearly 15 years, without Smith.

"They right now do not have a weakness," Sixers head coach Doug Collins said (via Andy Jasner of NBA.com) after the game.

What the Knicks do have, though, is a secret weapon—a high-scoring, deft-passing, efficiency-conscious and defensively committed J.R. Smith.