There’s a lot wrong with the Knicks this season. But on the offensive end of the floor, the drop-off in production from J.R. Smith has to be near the top of the list.
Smith was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year a season ago, and averaged 18.1 points per game on 42.2 percent shooting. This year, Smith is off to a much slower start. In the 10 games he’s played, his minutes are similar, but he’s scoring 11.7 points per game while shooting just 32.8 percent.
After receiving a free agent contract in the offseason, Smith underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee. He missed the first five games of the season serving a suspension for violating the league’s drug policy, but has appeared in every game since, mostly with below average results.
“My jumper just hasn’t been there,” Smith said. “That’s situations where I got to make my teammates better, get guys open shots and keep driving to the hole. But one thing, I’m not going to stop shooting.”
Asked if his surgically repaired left knee has affected his shooting stroke and his overall play, Smith admitted: “Somewhat, but it’s all right, I’m still playing…It’s taking time. I’m not one to make excuses, but I got to play better. If it’s hurting that bad, then I shouldn’t be playing. I’m out there and I’m going to try to give it all I got.”
The loss of veteran leadership in the locker room has been a factor, as has the loss of the team’s defensive anchor in Tyson Chandler due to injury. But the Knicks need any help they can get to improve an offense that ranks 24th in the league this year, after being third in the league last season. Whether or not Smith is able to regain something similar to last year’s form will go a long way in determining just how much progress can be made.
LeBron James’ Lakers edge Dwyane Wade’s Heat in final meeting
LOS ANGELES (AP) —LeBron James scored 28 points and the Los Angeles Lakers survived Dwyane Wade‘s 15-point performance in the second half of the superstars’ probable final on-court meeting for a 108-105 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night.
The game appropriately ended with James guarding Wade, who missed a difficult 3-point attempt in the waning seconds. After the buzzer sounded, and they shared a hug and a chat to close perhaps the final joint chapter of two careers that have intersected repeatedly since they entered the NBA together in 2003.
Wade and James teamed up with the Heat in 2010 to win two championships while reaching four consecutive NBA Finals, and they spent half of last season together in Cleveland.
Wade intends to retire after this season, and Staples Center sent him out of Los Angeles in style with multiple standing ovations and a tribute video in the first quarter.
James and Wade both missed big shots down the stretch, but James hit two free throws with 22.5 seconds left to stretch the Lakers’ lead to three points.
Kyle Kuzma scored 33 points for the Lakers, who have won 13 of 17 overall and five straight at home.
Justise Winslow scored a career-high 28 points for Miami, hitting six 3-pointers in the third stop on the Heat’s six-game road trip.
Wade’s wife, Gabrielle Union, was among the fans at courtside as the high-scoring guard played 32 minutes. Wade went 0 for 5 in a scoreless first half, but still had six assists.
He got rolling in the third quarter with eight points in a flurry that recalled his heyday, and he kept up the pressure in the fourth while finishing with 10 assists and five rebounds.
Marcus Morris scores 31, leads depleted Celtics past Pelicans 113-100
With four of their regulars relegated to cheerleaders, the Celtics got a season-high 31 points from Morris and another 21 from Tatum to beat New Orleans 113-100 on Monday night for their sixth straight victory.
“The first thing was be a leader,” Morris said. “We had a lot of guys down … and keep trying to play the right way with the guys out there.”
Anthony Davis scored 41 points and Julius Randle had 20 points and 11 rebounds for New Orleans, which was playing back-to-back games after beating the Pistons in Detroit on Sunday. But Davis also had two shots blocked by Celtics rookie Robert Williams III.
“He had 41,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “I think everybody has gotten their shot blocked at one time or another.”
Jaylen Brown scored 19 for Boston, which was also without Gordon Hayward and Aron Baynes. Williams, in the longest appearance of his career, had career highs of seven points and 11 rebounds, while picking up three blocked shots – two on Davis.
“Well, he held him to 41,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens joked. “I thought Robert did a lot of good things. When you’re shooting jumpers and Robert’s in the vicinity, you feel him.”
The Celtics scored nine straight points in the last four minutes of the first quarter to take a lead they would never relinquish. They led 59-53 at the half before Morris hit three 3s – one from the left corner, one from the right wing and one from the top of the key – to make it 68-55.
New Orleans never got closer than nine points after that.
Lakers fans give Dwyane Wade standing ovation; check out L.A. tribute video
Turner has had a strong defensive season in the paint so far for the Pacers, a big step for him. He’s sixth among centers in ESPN’s defensive real plus/minus stat (which has its flaws but is a good snapshot).