J.R. Smith had never had a game-winning, buzzer-beating shot before this season. Now he has two in three weeks.
Smith capped off a terrific all-around game with a difficult catch-turn-and-shoot deep baseline jumper as time expired to lift the Knicks to a 99-97 win at Phoenix. Smith was also fading to his left when he launched the decisive bucket that helped the undermanned Knicks improve to 21-8 on this season.
On most nights that shot would have gone to Carmelo Anthony. But the Knicks were without their best player because of a hyper-extended left knee he suffered in Tuesday’s loss at the Lakers when Marcus Camby fell into him.
The other time Smith hit the game-winner – Dec. 5 in Charlotte - it also was a tough fading jumper from the left side and it also was without Anthony. He was in the locker room getting stitches on his left middle finger and the Knicks pulled out the victory without him.
“I would say this one was better,” Smith said. “Our method is we can’t lose two in a row. It was big.”
But the Knicks were more banged up than that night. They didn’t have Raymond Felton, who could be out at least a month with a fractured right pinky.
The original diagnosis was Felton had sprained ligaments in his finger after banging it on a play involving Steve Nash Tuesday. But x-rays done at halftime of the Phoenix game revealed a fracture.
The Knicks said the next course of action will be determined after Felton gets back to New York. But Felton told reporters after the game that if he has surgery, and he may, he could miss 4-to-6 weeks.
It’s a tough break for the Knicks, who appeared as if they were finally getting closer to being whole.
Amar’e Stoudemire could return as early as New Year’s Day from knee surgery. Iman Shumpert could be back later in January, and Rasheed Wallace continues rehabbing an acute stress reaction in his left foot.
But Smith’s fantastic finish and Jason Kidd’s turn-back-the-clock performance softened the blow for the Knicks, who continue to prove they can win without key players.
Smith finished with 27 points, six rebounds, five assists and five steals.
He hit the game-tying jump shot with 10.6 seconds left. Then after Kidd helped create the turnover that got the Knicks a final shot with one-second left, Smith delivered, was mobbed by his teammates and then did the Victor Cruz salsa dance again, just like in Charlotte.
Kidd was spectacular. The Knicks are going to need more of that from the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer with Felton likely out for a while.
Kidd had a season-high 23 points, eight assists, six rebounds and just one turnover in 31 minutes.
He slapped away Sebastian Telfair’s entry pass on Phoenix’s last trip that ultimately led to Telfair stepping out of bounds trying to regain the ball. Out of the timeout, Kidd then made the perfect bounce pass to Smith for the game-ending shot.