What good is a three point shooting specialist who isn't hitting his shots? Or even taking his shots?
Much like 2015, J.R. Smith has disappeared on the offensive end of the floor in the NBA Finals, which is one of the many reasons the Cleveland Cavaliers are staring down a self-proclaimed, must-win Game 3 on Wednesday as they trail the Golden State Warriors 2-0 in the best-of-seven series.
But, returning home to Quicken Loans Arena for Game 3, Smith hopes to be aggressive early per cleveland.com's Chris Fedor.
"Just looking for my shot early, penetrate and try to get a couple easy ones just to see the ball go through the net. Just try and keep running in transition. Defensively, just try to stay connected to my man and try to play the passing lanes."
In the two losses at Golden State, the sharpshooter averaged just 4.0 points on 3-of-9 shooting from the field, including just 2-of-7 from three point range in 34.8 minutes per game. Smith realizes that the Cavs offense needs him hitting shots from the outside to succeed, but he has taken fewer shots than Tristan Thompson and Matthew Dellavedova.
Head coach Tyronn Lue realizes that taking away Smith has been one of the focal points of Golden State's defense. Their goal is to not allowing him open looks by not leaving his side even when he doesn't have the ball.
"Well, they're playing J.R. like we're playing Steph (Curry) and Klay (Thompson). Staying next to him, they're not leaving his body, and if we're not getting stops and getting out in transition, it's hard for J.R. to get shots because they're not leaving him. All the pin-down actions are switching out to deny J.R., so it's been tough."
Smith, who is known for shooting with hands in his face, has found it difficult to get a good look against the Warriors. While some may think that Golden State is now in the 30-year-old's head, he refuses to believe so.
"I mean, the only mental things that I really have to deal with is shooting the ball," Smith said. "When I'm open, shoot it. If I'm not open, pass it. My game is pretty simple. It's just a matter if I make a shot or if I don't make a shot. So I just can't let it affect my defense and my overall morale for this game."
Although Smith has struggled so far, he realizes that he must continue to try and get open. Even if he doesn't have a good shot, he knows that he can set one of his teammates of for a good shot of their own if the defense is focusing on him.
"They're running me off my spots a little bit, but that's to be expected like everybody else did," Smith said. "I just have to feel comfortable when I get in that situation to make the shot or take the shot or create a better play. My thing is, it's not just about me getting shots, it's creating plays for everybody else. I can shoot any shot I want, but it's a matter of taking a good shot or a bad shot."
With forward Kevin Love ruled out for Game 3 due to the NBA's Concussion Protocol, Smith will be counted on much more Wednesday night. The guard hopes he can be the player who steps up in Love's absence.
"I try to be aggressive every game, and not just because Kev is in or out. It depends on the play and the circumstances. Do I want to be that person to step up and fill his shoes? Yes, absolutely. But it can also be Channing Frye, R.J. (Richard Jefferson), Shump (Iman Shumpert) or many other people on our team."
If the Cavs desire to bring the first championship to Cleveland since 1964, then winning the next two games at home might be a necessity. And, for that to happen, Smith will need to be a legitimate threat on offense. Otherwise, a tumultuous summer in Cleveland might be underway, and we're not talking about the Republican National Convention.