The matchup of Jeremy Lin and Ricky Rubio brought plenty of fans to the Target Center, but it was Steve Novak who put the Knicks in position to win the game. Let’s take a look at how Novak, a player whose only offensive skill is shooting threes, found himself wide open in crunch time.
In the first clip, the play starts with a pick and roll. Lin drives baseline, away from Tyson Chandler’s screen. Although Lin doesn’t use the Chandler screen, Kevin Love slides to help on Lin, leaving Chandler open. Michael Beasley, circled in red, is the focal point for this sequence. He starts the play in good position, with an eye on the ball and on his man, Steve Novak. As Lin drives baseline, Beasley floats toward the middle of the lane, mirroring Novak.
When Lin picks up his dribble, Beasley gets caught watching the ball in no man’s land. Beasley is in no position to provide meaningful help on Chandler. Nor has he noticed that Novak has stopped floating towards the top of the key and has slid back towards the ball.
Lin makes the pass to Novak who is well behind the three-point line. That might be a questionable shot for some forwards, but shooting spot up threes is about the only thing Novak is going to do. Although Beasley was watching pass being made, he doesn’t go into full closeout mode until Novak is into his shooting motion.
Beasley’s closeout is too slow, and Novak drains the three. Here’s the full play:
The next play takes place out of a timeout; down by three, Mike D’Antoni draws up something to tie the game. The play starts with Bill Walker in motion towards the basket. As Walker runs down, Jeremy Lin runs up to the top of the key, in between Novak and Chandler screens.
However, Chandler never sets the screen for Lin; he instead has moved into position to set a screen for Novak. Just some good ol’ screen the screener action. As soon as Lin catches the ball, Novak runs off the Chandler (possibly moving) screen. Prior to the play, Chandler reportedly told Novak that he would be open for the three.
Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic are ill-prepared to react, and Novak hits the open three. Jared Jeffries, Iman Shumpert, and Renaldo Balkman rejoice. Here’s the full play:
These two plays show that just a small hesitation by the defense can give a sharpshooter like Steve Novak the chance to make a play.