By Ben Golliver
The third time wasn't the charm for Knicks guard J.R. Smith, who missed a turnaround jumper in the closing seconds of a 95-94 loss to the Thunder at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night that would have been his third game-winner of the season.
After beating both the Bobcats and the Suns at the buzzer in December, Smith found himself operating one-on-one on the left wing with the game on the line. The Knicks inbounded the ball with a little less than eight seconds remaining and Smith backed down on Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, milking the clock and setting up a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder. Westbrook shadowed Smith, getting a hand up to contest the long two, but the shot was simply long, clanking off the back rim and falling off as time expired.
Knicks coach Mike Woodson did not like Smith's decision on the play.
"He could have ripped through and gone to the rim but he didn't and he settled," Woodson said, according to SNY.tv.
The New York Post reported Smith's thought process.
"I really had the whole middle and didn’t have much room on the baseline,'' he said. "But the left side is my best side to get my shot up. I waited a long time as well. Worse comes to worse, they didn’t have any time to run a play. They got a good closer over there in KD. I wanted to finish it off.’"
Smith finished with a game-high 36 points (on 14-for-29 shooting) and hit six three-pointers on the night. However, he missed his final four shots -- all long jumpers -- and went just two-for-nine in the fourth quarter.
Oklahoma City was led by Kevin Durant, who finished with a team-high 34 points (on nine-for-20 shooting), eight rebounds and six assists. The Thunder improved to 45-16 with the win. The Knicks, who played without forward Carmelo Anthony because of a knee injury, dropped to 37-22.