Explosive and unpredictable are adjectives that apply both to current New York Knicks guard J.R. Smith and former Knicks guard John Starks. On Thursday night, Smith forged another connection between the two by throwing down a ridiculous dunk in an NBA playoff series against a heated rival.
During the fourth quarter of the Game 3 of the first-round playoff series between the Knicks and the Miami Heat, Smith drove baseline and under the hoop, eluding LeBron James, before rising for a remarkable double-pump slam.
"Smith against LeBron... he slid right by him and THROWS DOWN THE HAMMER," bellowed TNT announcer Kevin Harlan in response to the play.
That emphatic hoop pulled New York within eight points of Miami but ultimately the Knicks couldn't hold back James and the Heat over four quarters. Although the Knicks' defense managed to limit the Heat to just 58 points through three quarters, LBJ opened up the fourth with eight straight points to turn the tide. At the other end of the floor, the Knicks just had too hard a time scoring to keep pace for the full 48. Smith's dunk was one of just five field goals that New York netted in the final quarter en route to an 87-70 loss.
Despite its limited impact on the eventual outcome, the reaction to the dunk in the Garden and on Twitter was immediate. At 7th and Broadway, the roar elicited by the throwdown quickly evolved into resounding chants of DEE-FENSE as the crowd hoped it was the harbinger of a late surge. On Twitter, the reaction tended more toward OMG and WOW!
Before we all get too carried away, though. it's important to note that Smith's bucket was merely a very impressive dunk whereas Starks' signature slam against the Bulls to seal a win in Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals will forever be known to Knicks fans simply as THE dunk. In other words, don't expect to see anyone with Smith's play tattooed on themselves.