The last time J.R. Smith took a final shot, which would have normally gone to Carmelo Anthony, the results were far different.
On Dec. 5, Smith nailed a baseline buzzer-beater to earn the New York Knicks a victory over the pesky Charlotte Bobcats, 100-98, while Anthony sat on the bench with five stitches in his left, non-shooting, hand.
During Thursday's matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder, Smith had an isolation and used a turn-around jumper, which was off the mark as time expired. A missed opportunity for heroics overshadowed a 36-point scoring outburst from a bench star who had filled in admirably when the team's leader was sidelined and against one of the best teams in the league.
The miss had fans clamoring for Anthony's return, but when the 28-year-old is back on the court remains uncertain.
Listed as "day-to-day," Anthony has now sat out two straight games with fluid building up in what the Knicks staff have called a sore right knee. The injury is centered in the back of Anthony’s knee, and an MRI taken Saturday showed no damage.
After the 95-94 loss to the Thunder, head coach Mike Woodson reportedly suggested the NBA’s second leading scorer could return Saturday in a home matchup with the Utah Jazz. Woodson has also said he believes Anthony will be "fine."
Earlier this week, Anthony's knee buckled in a game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, though Woodson reportedly said in a radio interview he kept the superstar in the game despite previous requests to come off the court.
Anthony has never suffered a major injury in his career, except for a broken bone in his hand during the 2008-2009 season that forced him to miss three weeks. The MVP candidate has played in 50 out of a possible 59 games this season, and is knocking down a career-high 38 percent of his three-point shot attempts.
Forward Amar’e Stoudemire and the Knicks' bench have stepped up in Anthony’s absence. Over the last three games, Stoudemire has averaged 20 points per contest, and the New York bench has outscored opposing benches, 179-56.
A prolonged absence from Anthony could jeopardize the Knicks chances of maintaining the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference. Of the 13 games remaining in March, New York has a five-game road jaunt out West, with four of those against teams currently in the playoffs.