Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer
Carmelo Anthony may have continued to get his groove back in Sunday’s matinee victory over Denver, but another former Nugget went on to steal the show.
J.R. Smith’s hot and cold nature has been well documented over the course of his Knickerbocker tenure. As he catches fire, so do the Knicks. When Smith is on, there’s hardly anyone who can stop him. But if he starts to struggle, there tends to be no end in sight. Unable to be tamed, the swingman often takes his team down along with him.
With the Knicks still in desperate need of a consistent second scorer to Anthony for the third year in a row, Smith’s struggles continue to be well documented. He’s failed to thrive in the triangle, largely in part due to his stubborn nature as he reverts to isolation offense.
But against the Nuggets, things were different. After matching Anthony’s 28 points and helping the Knicks secure a much needed victory, Smith told MSG Network’s Tina Cervasio that being more aggressive was key to him breaking out of this most recent slump.
He couldn’t be more wrong.
Being overly aggressive and/or too overzealous is Smith’s most glaring problem. On Sunday, he was much more selective, for a change. The swingman played more intelligently and chose to attack the basket for higher-percentage shots. Perhaps most telling during Smith’s big outing was the fact that he ended the day with more free throws attempts (he made 6 of 8) than three-point attempts (he shot 2 of 6).
Smith was smarter in his shot-selection, and it quickly paid dividends for the Knicks.
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The Knicks ended their seven-game losing streak after defeating the Nuggets, 109-93, at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.
Adam Zagoria, Team Reporter
J.R. Smith didn’t care that the Knicks were facing his old team in a Sunday matinee.
Riding a seven-game losing streak and an 0-3 stretch on this homestand, the Knicks needed a win and it didn’t matter who it came against.
“Honestly, when we’re losing seven in a row, I don’t care who it is,” Smith said. “I don’t care if we played the girls’ JV team, we gotta get a W.”
And that’s exactly what happened as Smith started in place of the injured Iman Shumpert (contused right hip) and poured in 28 points on 10-for-16 shooting as the Knicks beat the Nuggets, 109-93, for their first win since Nov. 2.
“It’s huge, whether it’s by one, by 20, whatever the case may be,” Smith said of snapping the losing streak. “Hopefully it will put a snowball effect on there. Losing seven in a row, not only losing seven in a row but dropping games at home, it’s one of the places we supposed to protect. Just getting one and then trying to go out on the road and keep snowballing down.” To read more of this story, click here
Result: The Knicks ended a seven-game losing streak as Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points against his former team at the Garden.
Need to Know: J.R. Smith also had 28 points starting in place injured Iman Shumpert (bruised hip).
The Knicks led 62-39 at halftime after holding Denver to eight points and 1-for-16 shooting in the second quarter. The Nuggets rallied to cut the lead to 12 entering the fourth quarter.
The Nuggets are now 3-3 against the Knicks since Anthony was traded.
The Kncks shot 53.9 percent from the floor, 42.9 from three.
Links: AP recap | Box Score
What’s Next: The Knicks visit Milwaukee Tuesday at 8 p.m., game 1 of a quick two-day midwest trip (they visit Minnesota Wednesday, also at 8).
The Knicks, in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, remain upbeat the day after losing to the Jazz at the buzzer.
Keith Schlosser, Lead Writer
The Knicks can’t buy a victory. Now losers of their last seven games, the Knicks are finally starting to show progress and some signs of life, but it just hasn’t been enough to piece together a win.
So alas, New York must go back to the drawing board once again. What are some of the team’s most glaring problems?
Looking past Carmelo Anthony (who carried his team with 46 points on Friday), it’s difficult to figure out where steady offensive output comes from. The likes of Amar’e Stoudemire and J.R. Smith can be inconsistent, and though X-Rays were negative on the right hip contusion Iman Shumpert suffered against the Jazz, it remains to be seen whether or not he’ll be able to bounce back and be at 100% for the team’s next game.
What this all could mean is that the Knicks may have to look Tim Hardaway Jr.’s way and instill some serious trust in the guard for the first time this season. Up until now, the promising sophomore guard has been underutilized, to say the least.
New York Knicks shooting guard Tim Hardaway Jr. (5) drives on Utah Jazz point guard Alec Burks (10) during the second quarter at Madison Square Garden.Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
During his rookie campaign last season, Hardaway Jr. provided the Knicks with plenty of hope, despite proving to be a bit overzealous in his shot selection. But during NBA Summer League this offseason, he began to look outright dominant, playing more intelligently and making better decisions with the basketball.
Unfortunately, head coach Derek Fisher hasn’t exactly allowed the young gun to build off such success. Like many of the team’s offensive studs, Hardaway Jr. needs the minutes necessary in order to start cooking. When he doesn’t receive them, it’s difficult for him to make an impact in small spurts.
In the four games during which Hardaway Jr. has played over twenty minutes, he’s been able to excel. The guard has averaged 16.5 points, on 50% from the field and an even more staggering 55% from deep. Conversely, however, he has averaged just 4.7 points, on 28% from the field and 18% from deep, in six games with fewer than twenty minutes per contest.
Like Hardaway Jr., Smith, Stoudemire, and others happen to thrive playing more minutes as well. It’s often human nature. The youngster has fallen out of favor due to the liability he sometimes he represents on the defensive end. But like most players, sometimes it’s worth giving a certain athlete the benefit of the doubt, in hopes that the positive ultimately outweighs the negative.
For Hardaway Jr. and the Knicks, the proof is in the pudding. The team is simply better with him on the floor.
As per 82games.com, the Michigan product has been featured in four of the five best lineups utilized by the Knicks this season, according to positive plus/minus.
New York’s most successful lineup, which also features Shane Larkin, Iman Shumpert, Samuel Dalembert, and Carmelo Anthony (the star slotted in at power forward, which is immensely telling in itself) alongside Hardaway Jr., owns a plus/minus of +14 together. This also happens to be the third-most utilized five man unit this season.
It’s safe to say, that through ten games, there’s enough of a sample size to go on at this point. If something isn’t broken, there’s no need to fix it. But as the Knicks sit at 2-8, there’s plenty of room to improve, Playing Hardaway Jr. some more may go a long way towards figuring things out.
The Knicks fall to 2-8 after losing their seventh game in a row, 102-100, to the Utah Jazz at Madison Square Garden.