The New York Knicks have won 6-straight games – yes, the longest streak in the NBA – and have somehow been doing it without Tyson Chandler and Amare Stoudemire.
So what has been been the key? J.R. Smith, of course.
But this time, it is not what he is doing, but what he is not doing. Take a look at the shot chart of the last five games (via ESPN.com):
Like his dedication to on and off the court preparation prior to this year, Smith has dedicated himself to a new change on the court during this streak.
Many NBA writers have lauded J.R.’s inside game and publicly wished he would shoot closer to the basket.
He has a bigger body than most guards, at 6’6 220, so he could hold up hitting the paint more often – and he has.
Looking at the charts, we can see that he has been narrowing his shot selection to closer to the basket, instead of settling for the easier 3 or long range 2.
“I wanted to establish my game on the inside and move on from there,” J.R. Smith said to Newsday, further talking about how he knows he can draw fouls. Shooting 78% from the line, the Knicks could sure use him to take more free throws.
But there also is a charge to his body, “My body is killing me but I’ll take it.”
Like many players, he will have to make a decision whether or not to play this hurting style for the rest of the season. It may be the key to whether or not the Knicks can weather the storm of all these injuries.
Check out the charts from two prior losses from before the streak:
In these two losses to the Clippers and Nuggets, Smith settled for a lot of long range shots and was unsuccessful. When he stays on the periphery, the Knicks have to hope he is hot from 3-point territory for the team to win.
When he is running to the inside, his percentages like most players, rises, and he becomes much more dependable.
So while he is nicknamed JR Swish, perhaps we should be hoping for a little more JR Layup and JR Alley-Oop in the future.
April 10th Update:
Ian Begley had two great stats to add, which show Smith’s continuing movement to an inside-the-paint game over the last month.