NEW YORK – Steve Novak finally – mercifully – found enough space on the floor to pull an open jumper. He drilled a 3-pointer deep in the left corner with 7:11 left to play.
The shot would have put the Knicks within six. Instead, Miami’s Shane Battier was called for running over Tyson Chandler and the referees waved off the only basket that Novak could have scored Thursday night in the New York’s 79-65 loss to the Heat in Game 3.
It was almost cruel to snatch away the single open look Novak enjoyed for the night. Miami has barely given Novak a peak at the rim the entire series. The Knicks sharpshooter started his first career playoff game while Amare Stoudemire sat out with a lacerated left hand. Novak, who lead the league in 3-point percentage this season, went scoreless, 0-for-2 in 22 minutes. Through three games, the player that Knicks fans hold their breath for every time he squares up, is 3-for-7 with a total of 9 points.
“They’re not leaving him,” Knicks interim head coach Mike Woodson said. “I thought by him being out there it would at least open up our pick-and-roll. But they were really good in terms of showing on the pick-and-roll and then supporting it, getting back out to Novak when the ball was thrown to him. He just didn’t have any looks.”
Woodson has struggled to find ways to free Novak the entire series. During the season, Novak benefited from penetration or space created by double-teams on Carmelo Anthony. But Miami has made a point to stick with Novak and essentially has taken him out of the game.
The Knicks had already been looking for a scorer to help Anthony, who scored a team-high 22 points but shot 7-for-23 from the field, and needed a boosted from Novak and from J.R. Smith.
Smith delivered two incredible highlight dunks and played tough defense on LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but couldn’t offer much else on the offense end. He also took the blame for not finding Novak any open looks. Woodson has leaned on Smith to facilitate some of the offense since Iman Shumpert blew out his knee in Game 1.
“I think we definitely settled but at the same time, we were taking what the defense gave us,” said Smith, who shot 5-for-18 with 12 poins. “I mean, I was getting my looks off the dribble. It just wasn’t falling. I think I have to do a better job of finding my teammates, getting Steve acclimated in the game. He hasn’t really been awake this whole series. Whenever I get the ball I’m looking for him, looking for him, but I mean, he’s a sharpshooter, so we knew they were going to key on him but we have to keep him active and keep him in the game.”
Smith went on about his team’s inefficient offense, which was stagnant most of the game, making it even harder to find free shot for a spot-up shooter like Novak.
“For one, they’re not leaving him at all,” Smith said. “They’re not giving him no type of daylight. But our strong side offense, that’s what we’re using right now. We’re not using out weak side. We’re not looking for our weak side. We’re just playing one side of the court. You can’t do that against this team. This team is way too good. “
You can follow Christopher Hunt on Twitter.