In their blowout 113-84 win over the Jazz on Saturday night, the Knicks had one of their most efficient games of the new year. They shot 50.7 percent from the field -- their highest mark since Feb. 2 -- and finished with 21 assists and only 12 turnovers.
That difference stemmed from the Knicks getting creative in their half-court sets without Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire to lead them offensively. Mike Woodson not only put the explosive and play-making J.R. Smith in more pick-and-roll situations to complement Raymond Felton, which led to more inside buckets, but he also ran more screen formations for Steve Novak.
"Coach Woodson does a great job with Xs and Os," Novak said afterward, "so every timeout we have two plays that we come out with, and a lot of that was really his play calling."
Entering Saturday, Novak had only made five 3-pointers in a game once in all of 2013, but he was 5-for-10 tonight, providing the Knicks a big boost to quiet down the Jazz early on in the first half -- and then a finishing touch in the fourth quarter. His 20 points were a season high.
Here are five different examples of how the sharpshooter got open (some led to an open look but not a make, but they highlight the effectiveness):
1) With 4:13 to play in the second quarter, Novak set a back screen for Felton and then popped out for a 3-pointer (Knicks led 44-31)
2) With 3:39 to play in the second quarter, Novak ran through a cross screen and then back pedaled to the top of the key for a 3-pointer (Knicks led 47-31)
3) With 5:28 to play in the third quarter, Marcus Camby set a back screen for Novak who popped out to the baseline corner for a 3-pointer, which he missed
4) With 9:48 to play in the fourth quarter, Novak ran a pick and pop with Pablo Prigioni and then knocked down a 3-pointer (Knicks led 90-64)
5) With 8:22 to play in the fourth quarter, for an inbounds play, Smith set a pinch screen in the paint for Novak who popped out to the wing for a 3-pointer, which he missed
After the game, Novak noted that there was an extra emphasis to free him up tonight, and he credited his teammates for creating opportunities for him to get open.
"I'm normally a catch-and-shoot guy," he said. "Those guys did an unbelievable job of finding my guy and screening, and I think we definitely went to it more, using it as opportunities to screen and slip. For me, there were some flare screens and some pin-downs and stuff like that. So I was definitely used I think more in that capacity tonight."
Not only did Novak hit five 3s, but he also made more midrange jumpers off the dribble than in any other game this season (2-for-2). One of them was a two-dribble pull-up jumper, his first score of the game, and then off a head fake into an off-the-dribble runner. Entering tonight, he was only shooting 32.1 percent (17-for-53) from midrange.
"Novak was a major key tonight," Woodson said. "I mean, Novak made a couple moves tonight that we hadn't seen off the dribble, which was kind of nice to see. We've got to find ways for Novak to score the ball, because that opens it up a little bit."
On the Knicks' challenging five-game West Coast road trip ahead, Novakaine is the X-factor. The Knicks are now 5-0 when he makes at least five 3s in a game.
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