J.R. Smith's big night ruined by final miss
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Yet the only shot that he -- or anyone else at the Garden Thursday night -- will remember is the turnaround jumper he missed as time expired in the Knicks' 95-94 loss to the Thunder.
"A loser," he said when asked how he was feeling about the game. "I really can't say it was a great night. I had a high- scoring night, but it isn't really a good feeling to come out with a loss."
With leading scorer Carmelo Anthony out for a second straight game with a sore knee, Smith stepped up to score a season-high 36 points, nailing six three-pointers. After a scoreless first quarter, Smith had 18 points in the second and 13 in the third before cooling off in the fourth, when he went 2-for-9 and scored five points.
Scott Brooks said his team didn't change how it guarded Smith in the final quarter, adding that he thought he had been defended pretty well all along.
"He was making some tough shots," Brooks said. "He's one of the guys in this league that you can guard him well and he can make a tough shot. He probably made seven of those. You couldn't do anything to make him miss. He was in a zone."
For a while, Smith also felt as though he wouldn't miss. "When I got that rhythm going in the third, I really felt like it was going to be an even better night than it was," he said. "I missed a lot of shots in the fourth quarter. Took a lot of bad shots."
Still, Smith wasn't surprised that Mike Woodson put the ball in his hands at the end of the game. "When Melo is out and it's a close game,'' Smith said, "he gives me the ball and the leeway to do what I think is right."
The Knicks, down one, called timeout after Jason Kidd rebounded a miss by Durant with 7.9 seconds left. Smith said he wanted to use up all the time on the clock because with the Thunder's good shooters, he didn't want to give Oklahoma City a chance to get the ball back.
It was clear afterward that Woodson was not thrilled with Smith's shot selection on the final play. "He could have gone with it," he said. "Everybody was plugged in with their guys. He could have ripped through and went to the rim, but he didn't. He settled for the jump shot. He's made a couple of those in the past and won games for us."
Westbrook was on Smith for the final shot, but not so tightly that it appeared to be unmakeable. "A turnaround jumper is a tough shot in that situation,'' Smith said. "I really should have went to the basket. But it didn't work like that. My jumper was pretty much good all night except for the fourth quarter. It just didn't go in."