In the New York Knicks' two previous wins over the Heat, Novak shot 5-for-8 and 4-for-9 from 3-point territory. Overall, the Knicks hit 19 and then 18 long balls in each of those games.
Those high numbers represent what was working so well for the Knicks during their 18-5 start: They were moving the ball fluidly and capitalizing from beyond the arc. During that stretch, they were averaging 20.4 assists and only 10.6 turnovers per game (No. 1 in the NBA), while shooting 41 percent from downtown (second best). In fact, in those two Heat games, the Knicks had 27 assists and 12 turnovers, and then 20 assists and seven turnovers.
But during their recent 4-5 record, they've only been averaging 16.2 assists and 12.6 turnovers per game, and their highest 3-point mark was a paltry 36 percent. And Novak? Only two games with at least three 3s. While the Knicks have had offensive balance in the box score during that stretch, they've been mostly scoring off the dribble, unassisted.
That's mostly been the case because opponents have specifically looked to contain the Knicks' early season venom: Passes to 3-point shots initiated by Tyson Chandler's rolls to the basket. Instead of Mike Woodson adjusting to include more motion half-court sets and weak-side plays, he's been calling for additional one-on-ones, especially through Anthony.
"Novak is good, but it's too much isolation," one veteran NBA scout said. "The Knicks do nothing off picks to help Novak."
Another NBA scout agreed, and said, "I think it may just be a product of Felton and the offense's lack of recent effectiveness in general. When things are clicking, [Novak] gets great looks."
The first scout also says Novak has lacked confidence off the dribble, which he's needed to do more of because defenders have been shadow guarding him better. They know how big of a momentum changer he can be. While Novak worked on one-and-two-dribble moves last offseason, the scout said Woodson's coaching personality has appeared to rattle the sharpshooter.
"Mike berates too much like Bobby Knight," he said.
Through Novak's struggles, some have wondered why Chris Copeland hasn't played. While they're both weak defenders, Copeland can not only shoot from distance, but he's also a versatile scorer. He proved himself in the preseason and in limited starts this season, but a source close to the Knicks said the reason for his bench time is beyond the court.
"Very political," he said. "Do the money math and his age," referring to Copeland's lower salary and the 28-year-old rookie's status.
Most importantly, beyond the player debate, it's really the flaws in the Knicks' offensive system that have been affecting Novak's shooting lately. The Heat game presents a big opportunity for Woodson to make some changes to get Novakaine off to a lethal streak, starting on Sunday.
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