If we're being totally honest, Monday night's game between the New York Knicks and Detroit Pistons wasn't an especially thrilling watch, even for Knicks fans psyched to see the 'Bockers finish off their first 5-0 homestand in 16 years with a 95-88 win. The Knicks made as many 3-pointers (six) as the Pistons had field goals in the first quarter, led by 15 after 12 minutes and extended the advantage to 21 at halftime after shooting a scorching 63.2 percent from the floor in the second; while Detroit came within a last-second miss of erasing a similar deficit against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, the Pistons never drew closer than 12 during a second-half that felt kind of like an unnecessary formality.
In paint-by-numbers games like this, every little injection of fun helps. Luckily for those in attendance at Madison Square Garden and watching at home, the Knicks employ noted fun injector J.R. Smith. From Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press:
Things were so easy that Knicks players — though not [coach Mike] Woodson — had a good laugh when Smith threw up an airball on a free throw in the first half. Perhaps seeking some extra shooting, or maybe tougher competition, Smith came out during the halftime break, where a youth game was taking place. Smith tried to defend the inbound passer, then ran up the court with the kids, waving his arms to call for the ball.
That's right — early in the second quarter, Smith, a 74.5 percent career free-throw shooter who's hitting just under 79 percent of his freebies this season, authored about as complete a miss as anything Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan or Dwight Howard have mustered (although not quite as bad the one taken by Appalachian State center Brian Okam back in December). Behold:
Undeterred by the miss — and color us shocked that J.R. wouldn't be too fazed by a shot not going down — Smith pressed on, finishing the half with 10 points (behind only Carmelo Anthony's 19 for the team lead) in 13 minutes. Clearly, he felt like that wasn't enough burn, precipitating his intermission run with the small fries on the Garden court:
For a measured and reasoned take on Smith's between-quarters performance, we turn to Seth Rosenthal of superlative Knicks blog Posting and Toasting:
J.R. GOT SHUNNED BY KIDS! It was borderline heartbreaking! He jumped in front of the inbound pass and tried to play defense for the white team and one of his own newly adopted teammates pushed him off the damn court! How's the white team gonna turn down that length? Then, while possession changed willy-nilly, J.R. demanded the ball at halfcourt but got frozen out by both teams even though he was double the height of anyone out there and a slightly more reliable ball-handler to boot. Kids are ruthless.
Smith was clearly rattled by the youngsters' freezeout; he shot just 2 for 8 from the field in the second half, missing four of six 3-point tries. C'mon, J.R. — didn't you learn anything from Melo's run-in with Kevin Garnett earlier this season? You can't allow negativity to come into your circle and get you off of your square, even if it is perpetrated by some cold-blooded li'l guys.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson didn't offer comment on Smith's antics, in-game or out, but his reaction to the airball says just about everything you'd need to hear:
What's fun for us almost always causes agita for a coach. Especially when J.R. Smith is involved, I guess.