The G League Winter Showcase is a four-day stretch that many players have circled on their calendars. All 27 teams head to Las Vegas, NV to compete in the biggest event of the G League season. With NBA personel and scouts in attendance, players leave everything on the court with the hopes of securing a chance at their dream. Prospects are more hungry than ever to make a lasting impression on the courts at the Mandalay Bay.
The Westchester Knicks brought a 14-5 record into the showcase, along with one of the top defenses in the league. The Knicks came out strong in their first game. Westchester got Stephen Zimmerman involved by giving him high percentages shots at the basket. John Jenkins showcased his distributing, was setting up his teammates, and was working well out of the pick-and-roll. Jenkins also displayed his scoring ability and his effectiveness with his shot where he connected on 10-of-15 shots from the field and drilled five triples.
Westchester boosted a 70-44 lead at halftime, but saw their 26-point lead crumble in the second half. With a strong offensive output in the first half, the team struggled to hit shots in the final two quarter and were outscored 69-36 in the final two quarters. The Knicks turned the ball over 20 times in the contest.
“Our game on Wednesday against the Iowa Wolves was disappointing because we were up 26 points at halftime and allowed them to come back and win,” Zak Irvin said following the game. (h/t Westchester Knicks) “We have to give credit to the Wolves they are a solid basketball team and it showed in the second half. Overall that game was a learning experience for us because we have to come of halftime with more energy and a put them away mentality.”
Isaiah Hicks added that the Knicks were running strong in the first half due to their defensive effort and pushing the pace, but the team slipped up in the final two quarters.
“I felt like we started off great Wednesday. We were playing great defense, pushing the pace on offense getting lay ups and transition points. We just needed to keep that same energy and effort in the second half but we slowly let the lead slip. They went small and we let that affect us on the offensive end and that led to us losing but that’s something we got to learn and adjust and figure it out”
Zimmerman noted it was a great learning experience, which is something the Knicks will look to focus on during their six-day layoff: “Wednesday’s game was a great learning experience, we had a big lead but unfortunately gave it up.”
Westchester attempted to turn it around in their second game against the Austin Spurs, but the Knicks picked up their second loss at the Winter Showcase. Like the first game, the Knicks held a lead through the first half, but were outscored 51-37 in the final two quarters.
Early on, Zimmerman was active on the offensive end and was working well out of the pick-and-roll with Kadeem Allen. The Knicks came out strong and battled hard throughout the game despite not having one of their key cogs in Hicks, who was out with a left ankle injury. With no Hicks in the line-up, Zimmerman had to play big minutes and he stepped up in a huge way. In the two games, the Knicks’ big man averaged 13.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.0 block in 23.5 minutes per game.
“I had to really compete more than usual in these past two games because Isaiah [Hicks] was hurt,” Zimmerman said. “He’s a big piece of the team and him going down affected our game but we tried to play through it.”
With the success Jenkins had in the team’s first game, the Spurs planned to have him take tough shots and double team him. Jenkins struggled to get in a groove offensively and finished with a season-low nine points.
“Tonight’s game was tough as well,” Jenkins said. “They had a game plan to trap and double team me every possession which is something I have seen a lot this year. I will go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get my teammates going early so that teams can’t do that. As a team we will also be better in finishing games particularly in second half.”
Irvin noted the team played hard against Austin and stated where the team struggled, but feels the team will learn from their loss.
“I felt like overall we played hard and stayed together for the majority of the game,” Irvin said. “We just struggled as a unit limiting their offensive rebounds, points in the paint, and second chance points. We knew going into the game those were the Spurs strengths. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to win the game, but we will learn from it in the film room and be ready for our next opponent.”
Westchester didn’t leave Las Vegas the way they wanted to. The team suffered two tough losses against Iowa and Austin, but still can turn things around before their next game on Dec. 27 against the Capital City Go-Go. The Knicks have a 14-7 record, but still hold the second best record in the Eastern Conference.
Notable performances from Winter Showcase
John Jenkins vs Iowa: 30 points (10/15 FG & 5/7 3PT), 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals
Zak Irvin vs Iowa: 14 points (6/7 FG), 6 assists and 5 rebounds; vs Austin: 13 points (5/8 FG), 6 rebounds and 2 steals
Isaiah Hicks vs Iowa: 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals
Kadeem Allen vs Iowa: 11 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds; vs Austin: 14 points, 7 assists and 2 steals
Stephen Zimmerman vs Iowa: 14 points and 8 rebounds; vs Austin: 13 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists
Quotes credited to Westchester Knicks