Steve Novak has been eagerly anticipating the three-point competition this weekend in Houston, and Wednesday night he got a jump start on the All-Star Game festivities.
There's never been any masking of Novak's intentions when he steps onto the court -- he's thinking about three-pointers, and only three-pointers -- and that long-range attitude was again on full display last night in the Knicks' 92-88 loss to the Toronto Raptors at Madison Square Garden.
On the court for only eight minutes in the first half, the Knicks reserve forward took advantage, hitting all three of his shots from beyond the three-point line. The burst of threes provided an offensive spark in a first half that was largely devoid of life, and it also served as a reminder of just how efficient the Knicks are when they utilize Novak's strength.
Much has been made in recent days about the Knicks relying too much on Carmelo Anthony to score and not spreading the wealth. Perhaps the best proof of the importance of ball movement on this Knicks team is this: When Novak has scored in double digits this season, the Knicks' record is 11-1.
The challenge with Novak, of course, is getting him open shots, an issue the Knicks dealt with in the second half. He played only three second-half minutes, all in the third quarter, and the Raptors never left him alone. Novak managed only one shot -- a three-pointer, of course -- which he missed. He finished with nine points.
"As for Novak, we all know he can shoot the ball," Anthony said. But too often it's just a matter of getting him open and taking advantage of that.
Coach Mike Woodson had attributed Novak's struggles in December to Raymond Felton's absence, saying that Felton's ability to drive to the basket is the best way to open the floor and potentially free up Novak for a three-pointer.
"Why you leave Novak, I don't know," Woodson said.
The Raptors fell victim to that in the first half, as Novak's first two three-point attempts were clean looks. He was off-balance for his third three-pointer, hitting a corner shot in front of the Knicks' bench with Toronto's Terrence Ross jumping in his direction.
On his way off the court at halftime, Novak told MSG Network that he knows he has only one job when he's on the court.
"I understand when I'm on the floor, I have to be aggressive," Novak said. So when he gets the ball, which is usually behind the three-point line, he thinks shot first and everything else second.
The stats bear that out. Of Novak's 267 field-goal attempts this season, 215 have been from three-point land, a staggering 81 percent.
Meanwhile, Novak has taken only 17 free throws, about one every three games. That shows how rare it is for Novak to be anywhere near the basket, where fouls most often occur.
Because Novak is such a one-dimensional offensive player, it's hard for Woodson to keep him on the court if he's not getting his shots. He was scoreless in a total of 17 minutes in the Knicks' last two games, and he was a non-factor in the second half last night.