The 2011-12 campaign will forever be the season of Linsanity, but it also served as New York’s introduction to the fire breathing three-point marksman known as Steve Novak, and eight years ago this week Novak served up a delicious performance featuring a career-high 25 points.
Novak was not a newcomer to the NBA when the Knicks picked him up off the waiver wire, but he hadn’t done much of substance before coming to the Big Apple. Selected by the Houston Rockets with the 32nd overall pick in the 2006 draft, Novak played in 225 total games for the Rockets, Los Angeles Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs before joining the Knicks in December 2011, just prior to the start of a lockout-shortened season.
The one thing he had done to that point was hit 214 of 513 career three pointers, good for 41.7 percent. At the time, a 6’10” player sinking threes at that clip wasn’t nearly as normal as it has become, and the Knicks clearly believed the addition of such a shooter could help their Carmelo Anthony-led squad reach new heights.
Novak played spotty minutes at first, but his breakout began right as a little-known point guard named Jeremy Lin — who took joy in getting teammates involved — was handed the keys. Though he didn’t play in Lin’s first game against the New Jersey Nets, Novak recorded back to back 19-point outings in Lin’s second and third games as the starter in early February.
In March, Novak finally reached double double digits, putting up exactly 20 points in a 42-point blowout of the Portland Trail Blazers. Interestingly enough, the Knicks have won a game by 42 or more seven times in franchise history, with 48 being the largest margin of victory.
Brief aside: Iman Shumpert did this in that blowout of the Blazers:
3/13/12: Knicks def. Blazers - 121-79— Alex B. (@KnicksCentral) April 14, 2020
Iman Shumpert’s windmill dunk was so disrespectful
I miss this energy... pic.twitter.com/DVzSstI1wN
Novak’s first 20-point game with the Knicks was his 5th career effort of 20 or more; he reached that mark four times in 2008-09 with the Clippers, including once against the Knicks, when he hit 8 of 10 shots, including 6 of 8 threes, for 23 points. The Clippers won that game, 128-124. New York was led by 33 points and 15 assists from Nate Robinson, and five total Knicks scored in double figures, including Jared Jeffries, who put up 16 points and 10 rebounds.
But this isn’t a tribute to Jeffries. It isn’t time for that yet. This is a look back at the night Novak torched the Celtics for 25, which to this day remains the most points he ever scored in a single NBA game.
Novak’s career night
The night Novak helped bury Boston, the Knicks as a team buried 19 threes, which tied a season high; the other time was the aforementioned 42-point massacre of the Blazers. As of this very moment, the Knicks have historically hit at least 19 total threes in a single game only eight times, and the most they’ve hit is 20. Against the Celtics, the Knicks hit 19 of 32 threeballs, good for just under 60 percent.
The Knicks were playing without Lin and Amare Stoudemire, who missed the game with knee and back issues, respectively. It didn’t matter, because the guys who did play, including Novak, more than made up for their absence.
Novak hit four threes in the first half, but his reign of rained treys was overshadowed by JR Smith, who hit a ridiculous seven threes through the first 24 minutes. By the time the buzzer sounded at the end of the second quarter, the Knicks were up 72-53.
Despite the 19-point halftime lead, it wouldn’t be an easy victory. The Celtics surged back in the second half behind a monster effort from Paul Pierce, who finished with a whopping 43 points and was the game’s leading scorer. With only a few minutes to go, the Celtics had cut the deficit to six, 112-106.
That’s when Novak, surrounded only by a Rajon Rondo jumper, splashed two threes, resulting in a final score of 118-110.
Can’t forget Carmelo, among others
Not for nothing, this game represented one of Melo’s premier performances in the orange and blue. He notched his second career triple-double (he hasn’t had another triple-double yet to date), amassing 35 points (13-24 from the field, 2-4 from three), 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Melo and Novak were aided by JR Smith’s 25 points (8-16 from the field, 7-10 from deep), 6 rebounds and 4 assists, as well as Tyson Chandler’s 20 points (9-10 shooting) and 7 boards. Jared Jeffries added 2 points and 2 steals in just under six minutes of playing time.
Melo was magical, and everyone was starting to wonder whether he had another level he could reach. One where he’d consistently fill up the stat sheet à la LeBron James.
“He’s playing like we all thought he could play,” Woodson said, according to the New York Times recap of the game. “And it’s beautiful to watch him play because he’s doing a lot of things on both ends of the floor. He’s making guys around him better and we’re winning. That’s what the good players do.”
Melo’s spectacular performance wasn’t enough to earn him the top photo of the Times’ story, however. That was reserved for Novak.
Now let’s all do the discount double check as we enjoy the highlights of Melo, JR and Novak from Novak’s career night, and reminisce about the good old days when we were allowed to gather in large groups.