ATLANTA -- Perhaps the Atlanta Hawks have gone about this the wrong way.
They've tried guarding J.R. Smith. But the way he shoots when guarded, maybe Atlanta should just leave him alone and focus its defensive energy elsewhere.
Smith has long been one of the NBA's streakiest shooters and, as part of that, one of the best bad-shot makers. When Smith is running hot, and he has been lately, he knocks down shots that most players wouldn't even consider trying.
As the Cleveland Cavaliers set a record by hitting 25 3-pointers in their Game 2 win over the Hawks, 20 percent of them came when Smith was blanketed by a defender. Of his seven 3-point makes Wednesday, five came on contested shots.
"Guys are always looking at me like: 'What are you doing? What are you doing?' This is my shot," said Smith, whose Cavs face the Hawks in Game 3 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday (ESPN). "Regardless of how funny it may look to you, I feel as if I can make it when I get that opportunity."
This isn't funny. It's serious.
Smith has made 19 3-pointers when his shots have been contested thus far in the postseason, according to tracking by ESPN Stats & Information. That's the most of any player (Klay Thompson is second with 18). Perhaps more impressive, Smith is shooting 49 percent on contested 3-pointers in the playoffs.
Of the 61 shots he has taken in his first six playoff games, 39 of them have been contested. He's shooting about the same percentage, 50 percent, on wide-open shots as those with a hand in his face.
Last year in the Eastern Conference finals, Smith had a game against the Hawks in which he made eight 3-pointers -- five of them contested. Afterward, he said what not only sums up his game, but his trouble-filled, shot-slinging career.
"I'd rather take a contested shot than an open shot any day," Smith said. "It's kind of boring when you take open shots."
You can see the autobiography now. "Open shots are boring: The J.R. Smith story."
"This guy, you give him the ball anywhere, he can shoot it," Cavs forward LeBron James said. "All shapes and sizes, he doesn't have to be balanced."
Part of the deal with Smith, of course, is the fleeting nature of his style. Last year, he had a similar run as he made 48 percent of his contested 3-pointers in the first three rounds of the playoffs. Then he crashed in the NBA Finals, shooting just 29 percent from 3. The Golden State Warriors made slowing him down a big part of their game plan, especially after Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving went down with an injury.
That's not in Smith's memory banks, though. He will continue to fire away without fear of consequence.
"Whenever I shoot the ball, I have the confidence that it's going to go in, and I attribute that to how hard we work in the gym," Smith said. "I feel as if I can make it. And when I get that opportunity, I'm going to shoot it, and I'm going to make it."