The lasting, indelible image of New York's win over Milwaukee on Wednesday: That of J.R. Smith firing up yet another three-pointer. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
It's not hard for a professional basketball player -- with their many years of being the best talent on the floor at various levels -- to be a gunner. But exceptionally few are capable of doing so as relentlessly or as unapologetically as New York's J.R. Smith, who turns volume shooting into performance art.
Smith's conscience was fried long ago, or perhaps never there at all. He is so full of confidence as to border on delusional. And, perhaps most important of all: Smith has the seemingly unwavering confidence of his coach, who allows him to fire without penalty. Mike Woodson is the miraculous enabler in all of Smith's latest chucking endeavors, and without him, performances like Smith's on Wednesday night against the Bucks would be impossible.
What happened on Wednesday, you ask? The Knicks topped the lowly Bucks, 107-101, which these days is an exceptional development in itself. It took them two overtimes to do so, though New York is likely still thankful for the relief that comes with a mild bump in the standings. But beyond that, Smith's performance was among the night's most notable, in that the trigger-happy shooter shifted into automatic. In 49 minutes of action, Smith hoisted up a whopping 17 three-point attempts.
Seventeen. Only two of which came beyond regulation, mind you, and only five of which actually went in. Smith just kept firing away, to the point that he cemented his status as the preeminent long-range chucker of his generation. Since 2008, Smith is the only player in the NBA to attempt 17 three-pointers or more in a single game. He's now done so three times, having pulled off the feat twice before with the Nuggets. Smith, it seems, has a fluorescent green light, inextinguishable by those pesky bits of context and discretion that stand in the way of other shooters.
On Wednesday, that complete freedom led to a shooting total that surprised even Smith:
...though not to a degree that would lead him to epiphany:
Smith also took the occasion as a chance to brush off his critics, specifically those who were equally critical of Smith's baffling, one-shot outing against Boston on Dec. 13:
We can spare Smith the lesson on the dangers of extremes -- the man is surely tired after running through a three-hour shooting drill.