The Knicks should thank the NBA for suspending J.R. Smith from Sunday’s playoff game at the TD Garden.

You read right, Knick fans.

Jim Dolan should send over a nice big gift basket to David Stern for banning his Sixth Man Award winner from what promises to be the Knicks’ first series-clinching win since 2000.

Smith needs to be taught a lesson about the importance of keeping his head in a playoff game and Mike Woodson can’t do that, even if he tried to make the case more than eight hours before the league finally released the announcement on Smith’s punishment on Saturday night.

Woodson has had some breakthrough moments with his volatile guard this season. But how could he be expected to get Smith to cut out the bull if the coach didn’t think Smith’s blatant elbow to Jason Terry’s chin in Game 3 was illegal in the first place? Woodson excused the clear-out move as a “basketball play.”
It was calculated, dangerous and worthy of his one-game ban.

If Smith is going to learn from his mistake, there really is no better way than by having the league make him stay back at the team hotel while his teammates try to pull off the sweep against the Celtics.

In this case, it is far better for the Knicks’ second most important player to feel the wrath of the NBA. They’ll get a nice chunk of his pay from his next check and that will get his attention, no doubt. That’s where their sanction carries a lot bigger wallop than anything he’ll hear from his coach.

If the Knicks lose without Smith, and there’s a chance of that, of course, what’s the difference? This isn’t 2004 Yankees-Red Sox, where a commanding 3-0 lead in the ALCS proved to be very unsafe for the Bronx Bombers. But this definitely is 2004 around here for local hoops fans.