One man does not win or lose an NBA playoff series.
But J.R. Smith’s shooting woes — 7-of-22 in the Knicks Game 4 loss Tuesday night — are symptomatic of the Knicks problems in this series. Indiana is a good defensive team that has taken away the Knicks first option (Carmelo Anthony is not efficent right now) and nobody else is stepping up to help him. Not Iman Shumpert (0-for-6 Tuesday), not Tyson Chandler or Kenyon Martin inside, and Jason Kidd last made a field gold during the Nixon administration (actually it’s been just three weeks, but still).
“I take the blame for this whole series,” Smith said. “I’ve been letting my teammates down, I’ve been letting my coaches down, and it doesn’t feel good.”
In this series Smith is 18-of-64 (28.1 percent) and 6-of-26 from three. Ouch.
Credit the Pacers defense for some of this — they are long and physical and you don’t get easy looks against them. They have taken away the easy first and second options out of the Knicks offensive sets. During the regular season when the Knicks offense broke down Anthony or Smith could create their own look in isolation and bail the offense out. Go isolation against the Pacers and they destroy you.
But the Knicks also moved the ball strong to weak so much better in the season, especially during their win streak they shared the rock beautiffuly. But now even when Pablo Prigioni does that now, the shot gets missed.
And that’s not all on Smith. He’s part of a larger problem.
Joel Embiid on Monday will have an MRI on his injured left knee and is now listed as out indefinitely.
Embiid has been experiencing swelling and soreness in the left knee injury that has caused him to miss 16 out of the last 17 games. Bryan Colangelo announced back on Feb. 11 that Embiid has a minor meniscal tear. In his most recent press conference last Friday, Colangelo had targeted this Friday’s home game against the Knicks as a possibility for Embiid’s return. Now, that isn’t the case.
Embiid had been the biggest ray of hope for Philadelphia, but the 76ers shouldn’t chase watchability down the stretch. Sit Embiid until he’s fully healthy and secure the best draft position possible.
Maybe Embiid’s body just can’t handle the rigors of NBA basketball, but Philadelphia has no choice but to hope for the best with him and Simmons. And hope the nail the their first-round pick this year and get the Lakers’ first-rounder.
This could still be a dangerously good team in coming years. The Process created that potential.
But the threat of injury always looms around the corner, maybe especially so for Embiid.
Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah likely to miss rest of season after knee surgery
Prepare for the talk next fall about Noah feeling refreshed and ready to help the Knicks.
But this surgery won’t reverse the underlying problem: Noah is a 31-year-old big man with heavy mileage. He can manage his knees, but it’s probably too late for him to regain enough athleticism to reliably contribute.
Just three years and $55 million+ remaining on his contract, which already looked like the NBA’s worst deal and is now even more unfavorable.
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