A Look at J.R. Smith's Historic Night From Long Range
There are plenty of memes we could use to describe J.R. Smith's historic performance in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals between his Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks, but we're a family site, and most jokes surrounding Smith are totally NSFW.
Besides, perhaps J.R. is performing so well that he deserves better than simply being the butt of a joke or the source of comic relief this time. After all, the way that he contributed to a Cavs win in Game 1 on Atlanta's homecourt is probably no laughing matter for the Hawks.
Last night, J.R. scored 28 points (the entirety of Cleveland's bench scoring for the game) on 10-for-16 shooting from the field and 8-for-12 from three-point range. That's good for an Effective Field Goal Percentage (weighted twos and threes) of 87.5%. If you're not familiar with that stat, let's just say that's really good.
For the more visual learner:
Put simply, he shot the lights out. They weren't exactly easy attempts either, as he hit 6-for-9 on contested shots to go with his solid 4-for-7 on uncontested looks.
Smith added eight boards, three assists, a steal, and a block in almost 36 minutes of action, for one of the most well-rounded playoff performances of his career. In fact, according to Basketball-Reference.com's Game Score stat (a rough measure of a player's overall productivity for a single game), the 24.2 he registered last night was in fact the best performance of his 60 career playoffs games. On a night when LeBron James could only do so much, Kyrie Irving was hobbled, and Kevin Love was still out for the season, it's hard not to give J.R. a large part of the credit for the win.
Smith's performance marked the 14th time in his career (regular season and playoffs combined) that he's hit eight or more triples, the most such games of anyone to ever play in the NBA. Notably, it was the first time he had accomplished the feat in the playoffs, making the performance a career high in threes made, as well as in points at 28.
This game was not an outlier when it comes to J.R. contributing positively to Cavalier wins either. After starting the season with the New York Knicks, a team that finished with the worst record in the Eastern Conference at 17-65, Smith was traded to Cleveland as part of a three-team trade in January. After that deal, he went on to contribute heavily to the Cavaliers' 34-14 post-trade regular season record and has been a big part of the reason why they are inching closer to an NBA Finals appearance.
Over 11 playoff games, the Cavaliers have a Net Rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) of 15.3 in J.R.'s 259 minutes on the floor and a team-low 2.8 in his 269 minutes off. That 12.5 points per 100 possessions difference is easily the biggest on the team.
Smith's two-game suspension at the start of the Eastern Conference Semi-Final series against the Chicago Bulls for stupidly swinging at Boston's Jae Crowder was chalked up to his history of boneheadedness; now it's interesting to think how much his absence could've actually cost the Cavs if they hadn't been able to bounce back from losing Game 1 of that series without him and eventually going down 2-1.
That's right. We now live in a world where J.R. Smith's absence could've swung a title.
To that point, after stealing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, the Cavaliers have managed to shift the 57.22% chances the Hawks had to win the series going in to now being in their favor at 62.47%, according to our algorithms. They have also upped their championship chances to 14.88%, second only to the gargantuan 68.12% of the Golden State Warriors.
Of course, if the Cavs and Warriors should meet in the Finals, we've seen that anything is possible when J.R. Smith's shot is falling.
And that's no joke.