J.R. Smith did it all Saturday night — except untie somebody’s shoes. Mike Woodson couldn’t help himself. With his club stale on offense in the first quarter and trailing 28-20, the coach turned to Smith to start the second period. The message the organization sent to Smith lasted all of five quarters, as Woodson’s intentions of burying him a second straight game didn’t go as planned. Smith saved the Knicks (14-22), as the whole complexion of the game changed once he entered in the Knicks’ 102-92 victory over the 76ers at Wells Fargo Center to improve to 5-1 in 2014. With Smith drawing attention from the defense, the ball continually moved and he buried all four of his shots, including both his 3-pointers. Smith scored 11 of his 14 points and dished four of six assists in the period as the Knicks bombed the Sixers 32-12, with Smith playing all 12 minutes — a plus-20. Whether his relationship with Woodson and the organization is repaired is another matter. Woodson gave scant praise to Smith afterward. “It was a total team effort, it’s not just about J.R.,’’ Woodson said. “It’s good he played well, but everybody played well to secure this win.’’ Asked why he went with Smith, Woodson said, “No particular reason.’’ Smith admitted the Miami benching and sitting the first quarter in Philly was devastating. “It’s the worst feeling in the world — somebody literally takes the game away from you,’’ Smith said. “Especially something you love and played your whole life. It’s all you know.’’ Carmelo Anthony said he didn’t lobby Woodson to play Smith but was delighted as the Knicks moved a half-game out of the eighth seed. “I thought [Smith] was a real pro tonight, man,’’ Anthony said. “Despite everything that’s been going on, for him to bounce back the way he did, to put it behind him and move forward, it was big time. We will always be here for him.’’ If Smith, who had been shooting 34.8 percent entering the game, had made an impact like this, the shoelace caper could’ve been more easily forgiven. After not playing him in Miami and sitting him all of the first quarter Saturday, Woodson perhaps decided he needed to win the game over sending a message. But the coach wouldn’t reveal his thought process. “I’m not going to comment on that,’’ Woodson said. Woodson kept Smith twisting in the wind all day, refusing to take any questions about the controversial shooting guard or answer whether he would d play. Smith admitted he had no idea. “I prepared like I was going to play and he called my name,’’ Smith said. “I just wanted to be aggressive and attack, get back to playing with a chip on my shoulder. And it worked.’’ With Smith keying the second quarter rampage and Amar’e Stoudemire emerging with another throwback night, a near-perfect 21-point performance in 22 minutes off the bench, the Knicks ripped off their fifth win in six games since the new year began. Stoudemire hit his first eight shots and finished 8-of-10, 5-of-5 from the free-throw line with five rebounds. He threw down two ferocious dunks that had the large bevy of Knicks fans howling. When he departed for good early in the fourth, he received a rousing ovation in Philly. Smith also heard rare cheers as he came out in the final minute. Smith gave no declaration everything was back to normal. He said after the Miami game he didn’t know his future in New York. “I stopped wondering [Friday],” Smith said. “I can’t really control it. So just take care of what I can control — preparing the right way.’’ Anthony added 18 points with nine rebounds and seven assists in an overall gem. The Knicks held down the sensational rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams, who scored 11 points (3-of-6), as the Knicks’ team defense continued its excellence in the new year.
J.R. untied from bench, leads Knicks past 76ers
New York Post | Jan 12