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J.R. Smith says Knicks need to make a statement

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) goes to

Indiana Pacers forward Paul George (24) goes to the basket as J.R. Smith (8) defends him. (Jan. 10, 2013) Credit: AP

It’s hard not to agree with J.R. Smith’s assessment of the Knicks after they beat New Orleans Sunday.

If the Knicks are supposed to be a championship contender, they shouldn’t come out flat against the Hornets, which is basically what Smith said.

“We’re playing against a team that’s not going to be in the playoffs and we expect to play better than that,’’ Smith said. “We talk about being a championship-caliber team - these games shouldn’t be close.’’

They have another one of those games Thursday in London against the Pistons, who are currently in 11th place in the East, 10 1/2 games behind the Knicks.

Back to Sunday, Monty Williams has the Hornets playing hard and they have some talented young pieces, and even good teams are going to have their hands full sometimes against teams they should beat.

But coming off a practice and film session in which Mike Woodson challenged the Knicks, said they are not playing hard enough, that they’re being out-toughed, you would expect them to come out differently than they did against New Orleans.

We know about the fasting for Carmelo Anthony, the early start, the Knicks being undermanned. Those are excuses. The Bulls crushed the Knicks twice this year without Derrick Rose in the Garden.

It’s mid-January so the Knicks have time to get healthy, which is important. But more important is that they regain that sense of urgency and defend more consistent and play harder than they have been.

New York Sports