Coming their fifth win in six games, the Westchester Knicks looked to continue their winning ways at home against the Lakeland Magic. In their second game of their three game homestand, Westchester fell to 14-7 on the season in a 121-101 loss to the Southeast Division-leading Magic on Thursday.
Through the first three quarters, Westchester gave up 92 points. For a team that gives up the fifth least points per game (102.4) and are No. 11 in opponent field goal percentage (45.6) in the G League, the Knicks struggled containing on the perimeter and in the paint.
“We weren’t too good defensively today,” Xavier Rathan-Mayes said following the game. “I wasn’t too good defensively today. We just got to be better. We have to look at the film and get back [Friday’ and make sure we get that done. And hopefully we come out on Saturday with a better effort and hopefully we can get that done.”
Lakeland shot 48% from three-point range, while outscoring Westchester 46-34 in the paint. Head coach Mike Miller believes the team gave up too many shots in transition and had issues stopping Rodney Purvis.
“We didn’t get back with any urgency. We gave up too many easy shots in transition,” Miller said. “We played a team that was shooting the ball at an extremely high level particularly with [Rodney] Purvis and we weren’t able to get him stopped. We weren’t able to slow it down. Defensively, I’m not sure we took anything away and played a team that shot the ball extremely, extremely well.”
Four Westchester players finished in double figures. Nigel Hayes finished with 21 points and nine rebounds. Xavier Rathan-Mayes recorded 20 points and three rebounds. Trey Burke totaled 19 points and six assists. Isaiah Hicks added in 11 points and seven rebounds.
Lakeland fed off of their efficient shooting. Rodney Purvis led the team with 40 points on an efficient 16-of-22 from the field and 5-of-7 from deep. Khem Birch, who was on assignment from the Orlando Magic, had a significant impact on both ends of the floor. Birch finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds, six blocks and five assists. As a team, the Magic shot 58% from the floor.
Coach Miller added that the squad is focusing on their defense and what the team needs to do in order to pick up a victory over Wisconsin.
“The things we’re really locking in on is what our defensive work needs to be,” Miller stated. “Knowing personnel. Getting back in transition and getting the ball stopped and doing a better job in the paint. When we are playing at our best, we win the paint game and that was a big emphasis going into this game. We get out scored 46-34 in the paint give up too much in transition. If we can clean up those two areas, that’s a start.”
The Westchester Knicks had a tough month by playing 10 games in a 20 day stretch. The challenge continues as the calendar changes to 2018. Their next four games will be against teams that have a .500 record or better. After playing a home game against Wisconsin, the Knicks will battle the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and Long Island Nets on the road before returning home to face the Grand Rapids Drive in the first game of 2018.