Steve Novak faces big test against Heat

Shooting 4-for-7 from downtown on any given night is amazing.

But going 4-for-7 during a five-game playoff series as the league's most accurate 3-point shooter is abysmal. That was Steve Novak's mark against the Heat in the first round last season. The Heat game planned to eliminate Novak, and thanks to Dwyane Wade, who wanted to guard his former Marquette teammate, they were able to do just that.

So how is Novak prepping for opening night against the Heat? Interestingly, no different than the last time he played Miami.

"I just want to play within myself, play my game, play within our offense," Novak told ESPNNewYork.com after Thursday's practice. "I'm not going to force anything or go in thinking, 'I have to make my first shot' or 'I have to make five 3s or anything like that.' For me, if we get out of there with a win, I think we're all going to feel like we did our job."

With the Heat's Ray Allen on the opposing side, Novak will need to provide a shooting spark for the Knicks. As it turns out, Novak studied Allen's game footage growing up in Milwaukee, when the Heat shooting guard played for the Bucks, to learn how to move without the ball and get open off screens. He'll use those same tactics against the Heat.

"He's a player who I've always looked up to -- without a doubt," Novak said. "I love his game. He was also in the Big East, I played in the Big East, so I would always look up his numbers and those kinds of things. Also, as a person, too. I think he's a humble guy, he's a guy who just goes about his business and he's a great shooter. I've always enjoyed watching him, I would say the most out of anybody that's in the league now, for sure. He's a guy I'm a fan of, but I won't be tomorrow night."

Like Allen, Novak is the kind of player who can help a team go on a quick run, build momentum and get the home crowd pumped up. It helps that Novak has his Mr. Discount Triple Check celebration after made 3-pointers, which the Knicks will need Friday night. First, they'll need more attacking beyond Carmelo Anthony, which Woodson stressed during Thursday's practice, to get Novak and others more open looks.

While Woodson doesn't have any set schemes for Novak, he called for more pick-and-pops in the preseason between the sharpshooter and one of the point guards. Novak himself has added better pump fakes and new one-to-two-dribble moves into a jumpshot. Those small things should help him free up his release, whereas last season he was more of a stationary shooter, and felt more pressured to pass when a defender closed out on him. This season, Novak appears to be more confident.

Not only does Novak believe he's better prepared to face the Heat this time around, he also feels his team is better equipped.

"Without a doubt," he said. "We've got guys that have been successful against Miami. Jason and Tyson beat those guys in the championship [in 2011], and we've just been all open ears to what these guys have to say, how they played them, the things that they know are their strengths and weaknesses. We've kind of leaned on them a little bit in the scouting report and film to ask them, 'What did you take away? What works?' because they've figured it out."

While the Knicks obviously don't have to figure all of it out Friday night, as it's just Game 1, with the long-time rivals Heat in town, there's always a statement to be made.

"They're the defending champs and they picked up some more good players, and we feel like we did the same," Novak said. "We've got a lot of guys that we feel great about, we think our chemistry is good and we think we improved in the offseason, so it's a big game -- there's no doubt about it."

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