Josh Smith is so obviously meant to be spectacular at basketball that we've spent a lot of his career being frustrated, focusing on his flaws. Tuesday night, we remembered why we put up with the other Josh Smith as he and Dwight Howard turned into a gritty mega-dunking reboot of Stockton and Malone:
Game 2 of Mavericks-Rockets was close most of the way, and Dallas held a slight lead to start the fourth quarter. But with the Rockets down, 84-82, Smith was done messing around. He grabbed a missed free throw, spun around and lobbed the ball up to Howard, which he slammed down.
Two possessions later, Smith lobbed it to Howard again. And then again on the next possession. And then with the defense cued in on stopping Howard, Smith went strong to the hoop.
Houston pulled off a 17-4 run, with Smith scoring two points and dishing out six assists. He'd only had six assists three times in an entire game since joining the Rockets. All in all, he'd finish with 15 points, nine assists, eight rebounds and five alley-oop passes to Howard:
There's context to why Smith and Howard were so dynamic. For starters, they spent a lot of time playing against a frontcourt of Dirk Nowitzki and Amar'e Stoudemire, so this was like an unstoppable force taking on a very, very moveable object. And as the announcers said many times, Smith and Howard's connection goes back to AAU ball, when they both played for the Atlanta Celtics.
And hey, to be honest, this makes sense. Smith is fast enough, big enough, strong enough, explosive enough and skillful enough that he demands attention from opposing bigs as he begins bursting towards the basket. He also has decent handles and decent passing skills, and it doesn't take the world's best passer to find Howard on an open lob. This seems like something that can happen all day, right?
But throughout Smith's career, we've wondered why he doesn't do things that seem easy. Smith is so obviously talented and physically gifted that he makes so many basketball things look easy, yet he continues to strive for things out of his reach. He continues to -- hey, Josh, stop shooting. Josh -- Josh! Josh stop it! JOSH! NOBODY IS FORCING YOU TO DO THIS! JOSH, STOP! JOOOOOOOSH!
Houston vs. Dallas
Smith can easily be very good, but he's always played like his particular brand of "very good" is boring. He grasps at the impossible. And it frustrates the hell out of us, who know he can do things that are impossible for most. Tuesday night, it was impossible to be frustrated as he dominated, using every facet of his unique skill set to create a hookup the Mavs were powerless to stop.
So often, Josh Smith comes off like he's trying to talk to ghosts, trying to establish some connection with something the rest of us can clearly see isn't there. But Tuesday night, one of those ghosts came out and waved at us. And we waved back, remembering that the reason we get so frustrated is because Smith is talented enough to get frustrated over.
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