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Smith flying high in the Big Apple
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - In the movie "The Other Guys" starring Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell, Wahlberg's character is known for saying, "I'm a peacock, you gotta' let me fly!"

That's probably how J.R. Smith has felt playing in Denver for most of his career.

Now that he's with the New York Knicks, Smith can finally spread his wings.

With Carmelo Anthony and Raymond Felton both sitting out with injuries, the 27-year-old Smith had a chance to be the hero Wednesday night against Phoenix.

Trailing by two with less than 15 seconds left, Smith had the ball at the top of the key with Suns guard P.J. Tucker standing in his way. Moments later, Smith found an opening and drilled a long two to tie the score at 97 all.

After a Sebastian Telfair turnover on the other end, New York got the ball back at half court with one second left and a chance for one more shot. On the inbounds play, Jason Kidd looked right before bouncing the ball left to Smith in the corner.

Smith only made 11-of-27 field goals in the game. Luckily for the Knicks, he made sure his last shot was one of the 11.

With Tucker in his face again and about a split second to shoot it, Smith fired up a beautiful 21-footer for the win.

As Dave Chappelle would say, "Game ... blouses."

The crazy thing is, this wasn't even the first time this season Smith has ended the game on a buzzer-beater. Heck, it wasn't even the first time this month.

On December 5, the Bobcats and Knicks were tied going into the final play of regulation. With Anthony in the locker room getting stitches in his finger, Smith delivered the dagger to lift New York to a dramatic 100-98 victory.

During the lockout last season, Smith went to China to play for the Zhejiang Golden Bulls and some wondered if he'd ever return to the NBA.

Now Smith is back and his fantasy owners couldn't be happier.

As a career sixth-man, Smith has only averaged 24.6 minutes per game in 567 NBA appearances. Considering other players at the shooting guard position like Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade are both averaging more than 35 minutes per game for their careers, that doesn't give Smith much margin for error.

Despite not starting a single game for the Knicks in 2012-13, Smith is third on the team in minutes behind Anthony and Felton with an average of 32.8 per game. That's five minutes more than he averaged last season (27.6) and almost identical to the 32.9 mpg Wade has averaged with the Miami Heat in 2012-13.

The increased workload has given Smith an opportunity to shoot more than he ever has (14.2 field goal attempts per game versus 10.6 for his career) and the result has been a career-high in points per game (15.7). That total is third-best among NBA sixth-men behind New Orleans forward Ryan Anderson (16.2 ppg in 11 games off the bench) and Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers (16.5 ppg in 29 games as a reserve).

Smith's percentages aren't off the charts (36.4 percent on three-pointers and 41.1 percent overall) but they're still an improvement from what he shot last season (40.7 percent overall, 34.7 percent on threes). He's been especially dominant over his last 11 games with at least 15 points in each outing and an average of 19.4 ppg in that span.

Smith has a reputation for being a poor defender but his numbers don't really reflect that. He's still averaging a very respectable 1.3 steals per game and among shooting guards only Andre Iguodala and Bryant are averaging more rebounds than Smith is (5 rpg).

Sometimes in fantasy, it's about the little things. Free throws are easy points but many players (cough Dwight Howard cough) are unable to take advantage of them. Smith is only a 74.5 percent foul shooter for his career but this season he's been much more reliable from that distance (81.3). He's also getting to the line more than he has in past seasons (3.1 free throw attempts per game compared to 1.6 in 2011-12).

Amare Stoudemire's imminent return might cause a few owners to panic but it really shouldn't affect Smith's production because they play different positions (Stoudemire is mostly used as a power forward). In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if Smith starts to play even more now that Felton's broken finger will sideline him for at least the next 4-to-6 weeks.

Michael Keaton points out in "The Other Guys" that peacocks can only fly "as much as a penguin" but I think Smith has a chance to soar much higher than that. Right now, sky is the limit for Smith and the red-hot Knickerbockers.




Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Jesse Pantuosco at jpantuosco@sportsnetwork.com.

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