Steve Novak can get hot at any moment from downtown, but when he also hustles for two steals like in the Knicks' win over the Spurs -- his career average is only 0.2 per game -- his Mr. Discount Triple Check celebration has so much more meaning.
After being non-existent against the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night, shooting 0-for-5 from the field, Novakaine redeemed himself against a team Mike Woodson called "the best team in basketball right now." On Thursday night, Novak played unconscious ball after the first quarter, shooting lights out at the Garden and finishing 5-for-7 from beyond the arc.
Knicks fans were finally able to see the classic Novak who hadn't been sighted in basically eight straight games leading up to Thursday night. So how did Novak suddenly get his ratchet to click again? Great passes sure didn't hurt from Pablo Prigioni.
"We moved the ball really well, but Pablo [Prigioni] is really one of the finder guys," Novak said after beating the Spurs. "He's always looking for guys, and all I have to do is be open for one second and he'll find me."
The dribble penetration deeper into the lane that Prigioni created drew defenders to the basket, and Novak was open several times on each end of the baseline. The Knicks' ball movement against the Spurs was far better than it was in their loss to Portland on New Year's Day. Their assists increased from 18 to 26, and Novak flourished from it.
It also helps when teammates, such as J.R. Smith, are completing electrifying plays, like his emphatic dunk in the fourth quarter. Novak fed off that energy and added his fifth 3-pointer of the night right after Smith's monster slam, extending the Knicks' lead to 23 points with just over three minutes to go in the final period.
That's when the Garden went nuts.
"Really the game for us tonight was the first quarter to the fourth quarter," Novak said. "I feel like we just played them well the whole game. We came out, we defended, we shot the ball well in the fourth and we pulled away. So those were the points that were fresh in our mind and we felt we needed to make."