New York Knicks Stat Monkey Brief: Knicks/Hornets (1/13/13)

It's always time to panic in New York. But maybe fans aren't overreacting this time...

Panic in New York?

When it comes to sports, a New Yorker’s natural tendency is to overreact. When your football teams miss the playoffs, your baseball teams biggest free agent signing was to sign a guy who hit .235 for $12 million, and the Knicks lose three straight games, New Yorkers are certainly going to overreact. This time, their concern for the Knicks might be valid.

In most scenarios, the Knicks will need to beat at least one and possibly two of the Celtics, Bulls, and Pacers to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. A third loss to the Bulls, who are still missing Derrick Rose, does not bode well for April. There is a clear pattern of lethargic starts (the Knicks averaged 18 points in the first quarter during the current losing streak) and losing their cool (Carmelo Anthony’s technical foul versus Boston was his eighth, halfway to another one game suspension).

Are the Knicks the second best team in the East? Maybe when they’re healthy, the date of that moving ever further into the future. While the Knicks received good news about Iman Shumpert (he might play in London against the Pistons), the Knicks lost Marcus Camby for 2-4 weeks due to plantar fasciitis. The Knicks, average age 32, were not going to make it through the season without being severely bitten by the injury bug. If you’re a Knick fan, hope that injuries now means less injuries in March and April, when the games matter.

The J.R. Smith Enigma

J.R Smith is a maddening player. He’s won two games for the Knicks on buzzer beaters, and he’s also forgotten that he has teammates for long stretches of play. For the most part this year, Smith has been good, averaging career highs in minutes (33.6), field goals made (6.3) and points (17.0). Despite the success, Smith’s .409 shooting percentage is slightly under his career average of .421, and his efficiency will be a key to the Knicks future success.

In Knicks wins, Smith takes 14.5 shots and scores 16 points. In losses, Smith takes 17.2 shots and averages 18.5 points. That’s partially due to Smith playing the role of volume shooter off the bench, but quite frankly, it’s because Smith can get selfish at times. The slowly increasing role of Amar'e Stoudemireshould take some off the pressure off of Smith to shoot, and that should benefit the Knicks and Smith in the long term.

Previewing The Hornets

The Hornets provide the Knicks with an excellent opportunity to bounce back at home. Ranked 26th in our rankings, the Hornets are mediocre offensively (No. 19) and horrendous defensively (No. 28), which should benefit Melo and Co. When you add the fact the Knicks have already defeated the Hornets by 22 in New Orleans in late November, the Knicks should cruise on Sunday afternoon.

The Hornets' best bet will be inside. With Rasheed Wallace and Marcus Camby out, and Amar’e Stoudemire still not 100 percent, the Knicks will likely have to play small at power forward for some stretch of the game. The Hornets need to take advantage by using the size advantage provided by Anthony “The Brow” Davis or Robin “I’m Scared of Splash Mountain” Lopez to keep it close.