After last night’s all-around impressive Knicks performance against the Boston Celtics, many analysts were raving about the game played by Carmelo Anthony, and rightfully so. Tim Legler went to the point to call last night’s game the best of Anthony’s career, and its hard to find a better.
‘Melo went off for 35 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assist. He dominated segments of this game that no other player on the Knicks have ever been able to do for quite some time. Add in the Knicks being one three-point field goal shy of setting a franchise record, and nobody on the planet was going to deny the Knicks of a win.
As a team, the Knicks were 19-32 from beyond the arc, a remarkable 59.4% (!!!!) clip. In the first half, J.R. Smith provided the Knicks with extra punch. He hit nearly everything he launched, propelling the Knicks to a half-time lead of 19. He was on fire.
But, he wasn’t the closer at the end. NBA columnist Bill Simmons loves to talk about each team having an “Irrational Confidence Guy” that comes off the bench, is a deadly sharp-shooter and feels that he can conquer the world by himself. Probably the best example of an ICG is the Mavericks’ Jason Terry, who can come off the bench, play starters minutes and dominate a game from long stretches.
On paper, J.R. Smith seems to fit the bill. An athletic wing player with the ability to hit from distance and slash to the rim to get an easy two.
Negative, ghost rider. While all that is true about J.R. Smith, he is not the Knicks go-to guy when a clutch shot is needed from beyond the arc. And its not even close.
That, my friends, is Steve Novak’s job.
Everything about Novak’s game screams Irrational Confidence Guy. He didn’t just provide the Knicks with 25 points off the bench last night, but he put the game to bed in the 4th quarter. The Celtics got it within 6, and Novak hit a 3. Then, Rondo answered, getting the Celtics within 7,but Novak was having none of that, hit another 3, and got it back to double digits.
Novak was 8-for-10 from beyond the arc last night. On the year, Novak is an NBA-best 47.2% shooter from beyond the arc. An interesting note: in wins this season, Novak averages 10.6ppg, while in losses, he drops to 6.4ppg.
With the way the Knicks crunch time line-up works now, I’m not sure there is a way you can keep Novak off the court in a close game with under 3 minutes to play. He’s too deadly from 3-pt range to keep him sitting on the bench. By no means is Novak strong on the defensive end. However, his offensive value is so high right now that he needs to be on the court.
An argument can be made that, in the loss to the Heat, what the Knicks were missing most was more looks from Novak. Novak did get 22 minutes of action, but seemed to be lost in the flow of the Knicks offense. Some of the credit has to go to the Heat for making sure a body was always in the area, but it did seem, watching it live, Novak got lost in the shuffle.
Last night, there was no losing Novak on the court. He had the hot hand. And when he gets the hot hand, he takes the pressure and focus off of everyone else. Earlier this year, had I said any of this, people would’ve jumped on my back for just being one of the biggest, most unreasonable Novak fans in the world. Now, however, it is absolutely real. Steve Novak has morphed into the Knicks ICG.
And, he might just be the key to a Knicks run in the playoffs…