After several rough shooting outings and a conference semifinals Game 1 loss to the Indiana Pacers, it's clear that New York Knicks stars Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith are in a funk and somewhat derailed mentally.
'Melo hasn't been the same since Game 3 last round against the Boston Celtics. In his last four games, he's hoisted 110 shots and made just 35 (31.8 percent).
Smith's production has been equally lousy in the same timespan, as he's shooting 28.6 percent since Game 3 in Beantown.
It would be OK if they were dishing the ball at a high rate, but in the past week, Anthony is supplying 2.5 assists per game while Smith is averaging only 1.7.
Their one-on-one exploits have hindered the Knicks. New York dropped Games 4 and 5 to Boston, survived a Game 6 scare, and then started the second round in ugly fashion.
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
Carmelo and JR Smith combine to shoot 14-for-43 and the Pacers down the Knicks 102-95 in Game 15/5/2013, 10:17:00 PM
For nearly the entire year, Anthony shot the ball efficiently and didn't halt the flow of the offense like he had previously in his career. Now, he's back to his hero-ball ways.
Smith had also proved doubters wrong during his Sixth Man of the Year campaign, causing no trouble on the court, off the court or in the locker room.
He picked the wrong time of year to finally become a distraction.
The night before his miserable 3-of-14 performance in Game 5 against the Celtics, Smith was reportedly partying at a club in New York.
He was also seen at a club the night before New York's Game 1 loss, watching the Floyd Mayweather fight. Smith denied that he was getting into any heavy partying, and it's unclear as to how late he was out.
No matter how you look at it, you can tell Smith has been sidetracked and is not in a good place.
In fact, it's not far-fetched to think his elbow on Jason Terry and subsequent Game 4 suspension rattled him and messed with his head. Smith has been dreadful ever since he thumped the Jet's noggin:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
J.R. Smith shooting 26.5% since his 1-game suspension; shot 43.5% prior to suspension this postseason5/5/2013, 9:15:30 PM
New York needs both of these stars to be mentally ready to play sharp, execute the team's sets, and not take head-scratching shots.
It's time for a wake-up call, and head coach Mike Woodson is the perfect messenger. Woodson is a trusted mentor and a father figure for both players.
'Melo liked him when he was an assistant, and he obviously gave the front office his blessing to make him the permanent head coach in the 2012 offseason. Woodson has also been able to get the most out of Smith in 2012-13, pushing the right buttons and saying the right things to keep him focused on and off the court.
Woodson must work his magic again to get this dynamic duo back on track. The message needs to be serious because there is absolutely no time to waste or room for error.
On a possession-by-possession basis, they need to keep reminding themselves, "look for the best possible shot."
Both need to trust their teammates and realize they're not on an island. If they move the ball and let everyone get involved in the offense, the offense will naturally find shots for them.
The bottom line is there's no time for shenanigans, because the Big Apple is counting on them to bring glory back to Madison Square Garden.