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Pistons' Josh Smith has 'bittersweet' night

Vincent Goodwill Jr.
The Detroit News

Auburn Hills — Josh Smith was able to laugh about one of his worst offensive performances as a pro, a night so tough on one end of the floor that he missed two dunks within moments of each other.

The Pistons forward said shooting 2-for-17 in the Pistons win over the New York Knicks was "bittersweet, but I'll take the sweet," while dishing out the bitter to Knicks star Carmelo Anthony.

Smith forced Anthony into a terrible scoring night of his own, as Anthony missed his first nine shots en route to shooting just 5-for-21, a stat line Smith takes extreme pride in — especially considering Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy started Smith at small forward for the first time this season specifically for the matchup.

"When you're playing against arguably one of the best individual scorers in the game, you exert a lot of energy," Smith said. "I couldn't get it going offensively, but we did a good job on him, a team effort and individually, taking the challenge."

Most of his attempts came from close in, including the two errant dunk attempts. Van Gundy said afterward if Smith continues to get opportunities from close in, as well as bring the defensive effort nightly, he'll live with the results.

"Yeah, for sure. I was rushing, just speeding my game up when I didn't have to," Smith said. "When I play under control on both ends, I'm at my best. When you see yourself miss a couple layups, you begin to rush a little bit, and it got the best of me last night."

Smith heard some boos from the frustrated Palace crowd Wednesday as the Knicks charged back in the final minutes. Although most of his misses weren't from the perimeter, a jumper drew the ire of the fans, noticeable enough for everyone to hear.

"I could care less what the crowd thinks about shot selection," said Van Gundy, defending Smith.

"I've heard all day, obviously he went 2-17. But nobody's talking about one of the top three scorers (5-21) only went to the line four times. He got 10 rebounds and five assists. He had a lot to do with us winning the game."

Every professional athlete hears boos, usually because he's in enemy territory. But Smith said it's more of a pack mentality than anything.

"I'm not worried about the fans," Smith said. "I'm worried about what my teammates think, and people that actually understand and know basketball think. A lot of people are followers so if they hear one or two people boo they feel it's the right thing to do."

Overall, it's been a struggle offensively for Smith to start the season — but way too early to believe it'll carry through for 82 games. He's shooting 31 percent, but grabbing 7.8 rebounds and dishing out 4.3 assists.

"I'm still confident. At the end of the day I know the offense will come," Smith said. "It's just about what can you do to buckle down defensively to get this team wins and lean your hat on defensive efforts which is a lost art in this league."

Smith believes the late breakdowns are correctable, not a sign the issues that plagued the Pistons last season have followed them here.

"I'm excited we got the first win of the year, not really concerned about my individual stats right now," Smith said. "Just about getting wins and stepping up to the challenge every night to guard some of the best players in this league."

Martin, Meeks still out

Van Gundy said there was no update on veteran swingman Cartier Martin, who hasn't yet played this season with plantar fascia strain in his right foot. Van Gundy doesn't know what starting lineup he'll field against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he's without Martin and Jodie Meeks (back injury) — still weeks away from returning.

Meeks was shooting standstill at practice, but that's about it. Van Gundy seemed to lob a shot Martin's way as he exited his media session.

"(Meeks) can shoot a little but he can't jump," Van Gundy said. "He does as much as Cartier does."

Bucks at Pistons

Tip-off: 7:30 p.m. Friday, The Palace, Auburn Hills

TV/radio: FSD/WMGC

Outlook: Former Pistons G Brandon Knight is averaging 18.4 points and 7.2 assists for the Bucks. … The Pistons are the lowest-scoring team in the NBA (89.5 points).

vgoodwill@detroitnews.com

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