Kidd-Smith is the new Kidd-Felton

January, 10, 2013
1/10/13
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The Knicks' unique two point-guard starting backcourt of Jason Kidd and Raymond Felton paid off enormously early this season.

With them, the Knicks became the best in the NBA in assist-to-turnover ratio and one of the top scoring teams, playing two brands of basketball well -- halfcourt and transition -- and moving the ball much better to open shooters.

[+] EnlargeJason Kidd and J.R. Smith
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesJason Kidd and J.R. Smith have been a terrific one-two punch for the Knicks.
Now without the injured Felton, the 'Bockers are still proficient offensively. That's a big credit to their newer -- and even better -- one-two punch of Kidd and J.R. Smith. Smith doesn't start, but when he's on the court with Kidd -- especially down the stretch -- the team has sustained their scoring and efficiency.

With Kidd and Felton playing together, the Knicks outscored their opponents by 9.2 points per 48 minutes. Among the 259 two-man lineups in the league that have played at least 500 minutes together, the duo ranks seventh in offensive efficiency. But when Kidd and Smith have played together, the team has outscored their opponents by 9.9 points. Among those two-man lineups -- Kidd and Smith have logged 507 minutes together -- the pair is one spot higher.

"They have such good vision," Steve Novak told ESPNNewYork.com. "I think because J.R. can score so well, defenses don't really know what to take away with him. They're so worried about him scoring that he finds other guys. I think that's what makes things flow so well when he's out there."

Against the Celtics, Smith had 24 points and four assists, and Kidd finished with eight points and six assists. Boston pulled away in the last two minutes, but Kidd and Smith helped keep New York in the game late. Their work was represented best in these two plays: with 7:41 left, Kidd cut off a pass and took it in himself for the fast-break layup; and with 6:47 remaining, Smith intercepted another pass, pushed the ball and swung to Kidd for a 3-pointer.

"They're being aggressive, they're finding the open guy and doing a good job of finding shooters, as well as when I'm getting an opportunity to roll to the basket," Tyson Chandler said.

In the 24 minutes Kidd and Smith played together on Monday, the Knicks outscored the Celtics, 65-52, shooting more than 50 percent, while only turning it over twice in 42 possessions. In addition, the team averaged a superb 1.55 points per possession when the two were on the floor -- the highest mark of any two-man combo that night.

While Kidd's passing is always a plus, a key reason they've been so effective is Smith's recent threat off pick-and-rolls. Since Felton's departure on Dec. 26, Smith has averaged 24.2 points, four assists and 1.8 turnovers (only three in January). His playmaking has found Kidd from deep, and vice versa.

"They just confuse the defense," Novak said.

Smith's success in Felton's absence makes him an All-Star candidate; the 39-year-old Kidd, who's still excelling at nearly 31 minutes a game sans Felton, has become the heart of the Knicks.

Research assistance: Lee Singer, ESPN Stats & Info

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Carmelo Anthony
PTS AST STL MIN
27.4 3.1 1.2 38.7
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsT. Chandler 9.6
AssistsR. Felton 5.6
StealsI. Shumpert 1.2
BlocksA. Bargnani 1.2

NEW YORK CALENDAR