While the New York Knicks are depending on a lot of factors to defeat the Miami Heat Tuesday night, Steve Novak’s play is the key.
Carmelo Anthony’s presence since suffering a knee injury has obviously been vital during the Knicks’ eight-game win streak. J.R. Smith has been dropping 25.0 PPG during the same stretch. While New York needs both to score early and often to stay in the game, Steve Novak’s play is a huge X-factor.
The 6’10” sharpshooter from Marquette has been shooting 45.2 percent from three-point range during the Knicks’ eight-game run. During the four-game losing streak that immediately preceded the Knicks’ current tear, Novak shot 21.4 percent from long range.
The last time the Knicks played Novak’s college teammate Dwayne Wade and the Heat was March 3. New York lost by six, and Novak shot 0-for-3 from three-point range in that contest. Do the math.
Don’t underestimate the importance of the role player.
Miami’s role players (Shane Battier, Ray Allen, etc.) have received high praise during this season, and their contributions have been hugely important to the Heat’s success. While the Heat would be nowhere near the same level without LeBron, the 27-game streak would have ended earlier without, for example, Battier’s clutch defense (see video).
In the same way, the Knicks are counting on production from Novak to complement Melo and Smith.
Novak’s statistical production is actually down from last season, dropping from 8.8 PPG to 6.7 PPG and 47.2 percent from three-point range to 42.6 percent. He’s on the court a little bit more, but he’s shooting the ball less. That’s bad news for the Knicks.
One statistic that has been pointed out on Bleacher Report and on Rant Sports is the Knicks’ record when Novak attempts a high number of threes. When he launches from deep more than six times, the Knicks have a great record (22-2 to date).
Since Novak can’t really create shots for himself, expect to see New York head coach Mike Woodson put in some plays for Novak. The results of those plays will be vital.
Still not convinced that Novak is the key for New York to beat the Heat?
Look back to Miami’s loss to the Knicks on December 6. Novak had 18 points on 4-for-9 three-point shooting. When the Knicks defeated the Heat on November 2, Novak shot 5-for-8 from long range and tallied 17.
If Novak is hitting threes, the Knicks leave Miami with a big win.
*All statistics provided by ESPN.com.