J.R. Smith Continues His Postseason Struggles for the New York Knicks

Thomas DuffyFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 6:   J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks plays against the Indiana Pacers during Game Two of the Eastern Conference Semifinals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at Madison Square Garden on May 7, 2013 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

For the most part, the New York Knicks couldn’t have asked for a better outcome last night in Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The team went on a 30-2 tear late in the game en route to a 26-point victory over a tough Pacers team that beat them up in Game 1. Carmelo Anthony finally had a good shooting night, hitting 13-of-26 from the field and finishing with 32 points.

Game 2 was perfect for the Knicks as whole; it was exactly what the team needed after a frustrating loss in Game 1. Despite all of the celebration and cheering, though, there was still a single, growing cloud hovering over New York.

That dark cloud was J.R. Smith, the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.

Smith has been so bad in the playoffs that it’s hard to fathom how he played so well for the Knicks in the regular season. During the postseason, he has connected on just 34 percent of his shots after averaging 18.1 points per game on the year (via ESPN).

Last night, as the Knicks were nailing threes, getting defensive stops and feeding a red-hot Anthony, Smith was invisible. He shot 3-of-15 for eight points and hit just one of his seven three-point attempts. Since he served his Game 4 suspension against the Boston Celtics in the first round, Smith has connected on a dreadful 26.7 percent of his shot attempts (via ESPN).

New York can limp along with little production from their award-winning sixth man, but not for long. Smith has got to wake up and give Anthony, who has also struggled shooting the ball this postseason, some help offensively against the young, gritty Pacers.

The Knicks have more talent and experience on their roster than Indiana, but Frank Vogel’s team is not going to simply wilt and let New York walk right over them. The Pacers closed their series against the Atlanta Hawks with momentum while Anthony’s team nearly allowed what was a 3-0 lead to become a seven-game series in the first round. Needless to say, Paul George and the rest of his teammates have tremendous confidence going up against a team that they split their season series with at two games a piece.

Anthony and Smith couldn’t buy a shot against the Celtics, but it was a good sign that the Knicks won the series despite the lack of production from their two best players. Against the Pacers, Mike Woodson will need quality performances from both of his stars, especially if the team wants to meet its aspirations of a championship going forward.