Despite a close score for three quarters, Thursday night's 87-70 Miami Heat win over the New York Knicks was mostly unwatchable. In the midst of that mess, though, Knicks enigma J.R. Smith pulled off the best dunk of the playoffs so far, an absurdly athletic double-pump jam in traffic after a drive along the baseline. There are only a handful of players in the league who can pull this move off in a situation like this one.
Of course, context matters to a play's reception, so we should point out that the dunk came in the fourth quarter right as the Heat were beginning to take clear control of the game with a 19-6 run. The dunk didn't spark any fight from the Knicks, and Smith shot a pretty detestable 5 of 18 from the field for 12 points on the night as a whole. As usual, J.R.'s clearly massive talent was only part of the story — he took bad shots and didn't necessarily help the Knicks stay competitive.
The thing about Smith, though, is that his highlights remain laudable even as his overall game fails to fit the situation. Smith, more than any other player in the game today, plays the same regardless of the moment. In both the key stretches of a playoff game and the most meaningless minutes of a blowout, he's going to take the same shots and use up possessions in the same way. He ignores context. Instead, he just does what he wants. It's often frustrating, but sometimes he ends up producing magic. Whether it stands as a huge basket or ends up being a meaningless highlight is a crapshoot. For Smith, it doesn't really matter.