Throughout the regular season, the Westchester Knicks were effective on both ends of the floor. They entered the season with a starting five that could attack their opposition in many facets. Nigel Hayes and Luke Kornet showed that they were threats on the perimeter. Trey Burke and Xavier Rathan-Mayes demonstrated they could handle the ball and finish around the rim. Burke added in a mid-range game. Isaiah Hicks worked well down low and was a presence on the defensive end. Hicks not only scored down low, but he was able to put the ball on the floor, score, and get out and drain some jumpers.
When those five players saw time in the NBA, their teammates stepped up and had a great impact on the team. The Knicks ranked in the top of the G League in three-point shooting and in the top nine in true-shooting percentage.
With a group of solid defenders and versatile players, Westchester has been clutch on the other end of the floor. Devon Baulkman has been a solid defender and has controlled his opposing player in several games this season. When Baulkman’s defense is flowing, he lets his offense follow. Sekou Wiggs and Zak Irvin have showcased their aggressiveness on the defensive end, serving as versatile players adding different dimensions to Westchester’s line-ups.
Westchester head coach Mike Miller believes the team needs to focus on defense and protecting the ball, as the team heads into the postseason.
“When you get to this point and you get in the playoffs, you have to really defend and I think that has been the difference for us in these last couple of weeks,” Miller said. “Even if we were shorthanded, we really defended well and we haven’t given up a lot, which puts us in a good position. The other thing is you can’t turn the ball over. We have players that can do the things that we need, but it comes down to is we really need to play good defense. We have to take care of the ball and then I think we put ourselves in a good position.”
For the season, Westchester gave up 101.5 points per game, second lowest in the G League, and allowed opponents to shot 44% from the field, tied for third lowest. The Knicks committed 15.4 turnovers per game, which was fifth lowest in the league.
Xavier Rathan-Mayes pointed out the defense was the focal point of what the team needed to work on heading into the playoffs and the offense will follow when the team continues to stay locked in.
“I think when we’re able to be really special defensively, offense comes easy,” Rathan-Mayes said. “We got guys that are really good on the offensive end, so we have to just continue to lock in defensively. [We have to] continue to get stops and get out and run. That’s our main focus going into this week: being able to get better defensively as a unit. If I feel like if we can do that, we can definitely win a championship.”
The Westchester Knicks have shown throughout the season that they can be solid on both ends of the floor. The Knicks will need to keep that same mentality and production as soon as the ball tips off. The Knicks will look to put the pieces together when they face their division foe, the Raptors 905, as they hope to secure a playoff victory.