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Melo expects Smith to erase slump

Carmelo Anthony gave J.R. Smith a vote of confidence Thursday. Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Ever since J.R. Smith got suspended for Game 4 against the Celtics, he's been in a major slump, shooting only 26.3 percent from the field and 29.2 percent from 3-point range.

Carmelo Anthony has spoken to his longtime scoring sidekick -- dating back to their Denver days together -- and he said the biggest thing with Smith is to keep him "upbeat."

Melo expects Smith to rise again soon.

"I don't think he will be in a so-called slump for much longer. He's in here working," he said. "The only way you're going to get out of a so-called slump is put more work in, and he's been doing that. We just need him to be J.R. back out there, playing basketball, having fun, feeling positive on the court."

Anthony was asked about Smith perhaps lacking focus with his recent partying -- he was reportedly at Greenhouse on Tuesday night and The 40/40 Club on Saturday -- but the Knicks' star said, "I don't want to speak on that." He wasn't concerned with what Smith did "in his spare time," because around the team "he's focused."

"My thing to J.R. is I want him to remain positive regardless of what's going on off the court, what's being said about him," he said. "[He has] to have a positive attitude throughout these situations. ... I've told him not just today; I've told him before."

Anthony got into more details about what he's shared with Smith.

"Just play ball. Just relax and play ball; it's no pressure," he said. "Don't try to put so much pressure on yourself to go out there and try to make something happen in one play. It's not going to happen, it won't work. Just let it happen, let the game come to you, try to find other things, other ways to be effective in the game.

"Keep shooting the ball because we need him to shoot the ball. We need him to make shots; that's the most important thing. Try to stay mentally strong. ... I don't really believe in slumps. If you tell yourself you're in a slump, then you will be in a slump."

Mike Woodson also chimed in on Smith's shooting slump.

"Shooters go through it, and he's just got to think every time he pulls up to shoot a shot or he goes to the rim, that he's going to make the shot," he said. "I mean, you can't back away from it. We've all gone through it as players throughout our careers, and I've got faith and I believe in J.R. Eventually he'll break loose, and when he does, he'll be back to J.R. again, and that's going to help us even more I think."

In Game 2's win, the Knicks were efficient moving the ball and scoring, finishing with 105 points (on 49.4 percent shooting), 20 assists and only six turnovers. Even Anthony shot at least 50 percent from the field (13-for-26) for the first time in eight playoff games.

But Smith was the only Knick to really struggle on Tuesday night, finishing 3-for-15 from the field. Can he break out in Game 3 on Saturday night?

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