New York was looking for their first four-game sweep of a series since the 1999 Eastern Conference semifinals when they took down the Atlanta Hawks.
While the Knicks did send the game into overtime after facing as much as a 17-point deficit in the second half, they were incredibly flat offensively and lacked the dimension that Smith generally gives them.
A poor shooting performance from Carmelo Anthony (10-of-35, including 0-of-7 from three) was bailed out by an impressive game from Raymond Felton and a bit of help from Iman Shumpert, but nobody else scored more than five points.
How foolish we were, mocking J.R. Smith, when he was the only thing between us and the Melopocalypse.— Brian Schroeder (@Cosmis) April 28, 2013
Basically, with Smith out, Boston was able to key in on Anthony and force Felton and the rest of the team to beat them. Felton stepped up in the third quarter, scoring 16 of his 27 points, but he wasn't the same threat that Smith tends to be.
Beyond that, Smith's absence as the second scoring option forced Felton to step up into the second role and Shumpert to jump up into Felton's role. The only problem was that there was nobody to really round them out.
New York's bench was useless on offense, going from averaging 30 points per game in the first three games, to just seven points in Game 4.
Through three games, New York shot 44.2 percent from the field and 38 percent from the three-point line, compared to their 34.4 percent shooting clip on Sunday, coupled with a gag-worthy 23.3 percent from three.
In an offense predicated on making three-pointers, going 7-of-30 from behind the arc isn't going to yield many victories.
Smith is a player who must be accounted for at all times on the floor, thereby opening up chances in the paint for teammates. Without that extra shooter on the wing who can handle the ball himself, New York's offense becomes incredibly easy to shut down.
After watching them without Smith in a big game like this, it almost seems as if the Knicks will be forced to retain him no matter the asking price.
New York is simply too reliant on his production to let him slip away.
He made just under $3 million this season (which is actually less than Jason Kidd), and with a player option for a similar amount that he's sure to decline, New York will be looking to re-sign him and doom themselves to continued luxury tax payments in perpetuity.
Letting Smith go and trying to get similar production from another one of their own players (Felton? Shumpert?) seems improbable, as does getting similar value from a comparably priced free agent.
There's just not that combination of skill at a low salary level that they struck gold with when they got Smith from China in 2012.
If there's one club that can afford to pay the steep luxury tax penalties as repeat offenders, it's the Knicks. However, it's not just something to go do willy-nilly without thinking it through first.
Smith's shortcomings are ridiculously obvious. He shot below 40 percent in 32 games this season, compared to just 17 in which he's broken the 50 percent barrier. When he's missing shots, he doesn't simply stop chucking, he has to be yanked off the floor in order to stop shooting.
However, he has become an implanted defibrillator for the Knicks offense. If the heart stops beating, they've generally got Smith there to drain shots, drive to the rim and shock it back into action. Without Smith, the likelihood of cardiac arrest increases monumentally.
After seeing the Knicks approach the Jeremy Lin situation last summer with surprising amount of fiscal responsibility, it wouldn't be surprising to see them balk at a big number from Smith.
However, they might not get as lucky this time, and could be stuck dealing with the heart palpitations that come from a Carmelo-dominated offense.