We've long argued that J.R. Smith is a walking, jumping embodiment of why some people (wrongly, in our opinion, though this lifelong Illini fan understands somewhat) prefer college basketball to the NBA. Unquestionably talented, Smith has horrible basketball instincts, almost always looks for his own shot, leans almost exclusively on the twenty-foot fadeaway, and, at the worst times, has a tendency to let his brain fall out of his head. (Plus, you know: all the tats.) Now, this is a gross oversimplification of Smith's effect on a game, and he's the sort of player whose worst moments tend to pop up earlier in one's memory than his best (particularly on defense). When he is awful, he's the worst, but when he's great, you legitimately don't know how he doesn't regularly score 4o points a game. We got every side of J.R. in about one minute last night.
The Knicks beat the Charlotte Bobcats 100–98 last night in thrilling fashion, and all those thrills came from Smith himself. With the score tied at 98 and Carmelo Anthony out of the game with a lacerated finger (more on that in a second), the last eight seconds went down like this:
• The Bobcats, trying to take the last shot, take one wrong step on a pass in the lane and Smith pounces, knocking a steal into the hands of Raymond Felton and sending the Knicks down the court for what appears to be a two-on-one fast break for the victory.
• With Felton setting up Smith for the winning dunk, out of nowhere, for no reason on earth, Smith pulls back to the three-point line, like he's trying to run the clock out. Felton, bewildered, throws him the ball, and Smith starts to dribble aimlessly. Jason Kidd runs, screaming, to call a timeout, and is this close to tackling J.R.
• Then, after the timeout, this:
Yep: That's J.R. Smith. Never change.
(Actually, please, please change. You're driving us insane. Please keep hitting shots like that, though.)
Don't get used to Smith taking shots like that, of course: That's Carmelo's job. But Carmelo wasn't in the game because he cut his finger late in the fourth quarter diving into the stands. It was the second time Carmelo has done that this year, and this one was entirely unnecessary; the Knicks had already run the shot clock out, and Carmelo's leap was really sort of false hustle. Impressive false hustle, though; the sort of hustle that busts up your finger. He received five stitches but is still expected to play tonight. And he should really stop doing that.
It was a super-fun game that, all told, the Knicks probably should have lost. (Kemba Walker and Ben Gordon clearly enjoy playing their best against the Knicks.) But they didn't. They're now 13-4 and heading into a terrific matchup with Miami tonight, which we'll be talking about a bit later. That game would have been a lot less fun if this had been a loss. But ah: J.R. Smith, so J.R. Smith–y.