Skyforce Begin Second Season Chasing Third Title in Team History
All the players are the same, but this time the slate is clean. Win two games and advance with a total of six to win the NBADL Championship.
With their record-setting regular season, Sioux Falls is the early favorite to win it all. However the team that previously held the record fell in the championship round so anything can happen.
Westchester will be the first round opponent of the Sioux Falls Skyforce. The Knicks share honors along with the Iowa Energy as the only two teams beat Sioux Falls multiple times this season.
The first matchup between the two teams came in the second game of the season with the result being a Westchester 107-94 victory in White Plains.Games two and three were played back-to-back in late January with the Sanford Pentagon as the backdrop. Both were determined by four pour possessions with Sioux Falls taking the first 128-117 and Westchester emerging in the second 110-100. Finally, Westchester took the final game one week later 95-91 holding serve at home.
Each of those games had a common thread of the fourth quarter being pivotal in each. None of the games were blowouts with each team making critical plays to swing the game in their favor within the last 6 minutes of each contest.
Analyzing the people involved shows an ebb and flow of lineup changes that slightly shaped the outcomes. Jimmer Fredette missed game one when he was called up to the New Orleans Pelicans as an injury replacement. DaJuan Summers had a monster game that night to make up for Fredette’s absence but tore his Achilles tendon late in the game and was done for the season. Thanasis Antetokounmpo was called up to the New York Knicks during those last three games between the two teams. He has since returned to the Dub Knicks.
DeAndre Liggins and Greg Whittington for the ‘Force only appeared in first game of the series. Both were on the shelf with injuries for the other three. Jarnell Stokes only appeared in the last meeting with Westchester which came in game 4. Rodney McGruder suffered a shoulder injury late in the first game of the back-to-back contests at the Pentagon missing the entire game one night later. Plus Briante Weber was still rehabbing his knee injury to miss the early-season meeting.
As this best-of-three series begins, each team has obvious strengths. Westchester has the creative shot-making skills of Fredette who dropped a total of 73 points in the two games in Sioux Falls. Travis Trice II is a fine compliment in the backcourt who can score and set up teammates. Jordan Bachynski is the anchor in the middle for this team averaging double digit points per game and swatted a lot of shots.
On the Sioux Falls side of the ledger, Stokes has made the most of his D-League experience as the league leader in field goal percentage at 67 percent. Liggins is among the league leaders in minutes played, steals and assists per game. Keith Benson joins Bachynski on the blocked shots leaderboard with Weber and Greg Whittington also among the league leaders in steals per game.
Over the course of the season, Westchester shot the ball well from mid-range, but not so well or very frequently from long range. In short, they run the triangle offense to get good short to medium range shots.
Meanwhile Sioux Falls gets most of their shots in the paint, but is not afraid to take the long range bomb. Very frequently the Skyforce move the ball to set up three point shots from either corner.
Defensively the Knicks are okay with funneling the ball toward the rim protectors in Bachynski and Antetokounmpo while defending the three point line. Sioux Falls allows the fewest shots from closer than five feet from the basket while additionally putting the clamps on shots elsewhere in the paint. All year the ‘Force were the best defensively from 5-9 feet from the goal.
What does this mean for a three-game extravaganza between these two heavyweights? Defensively the Knicks will most likely need to contain Stokes and Benson down low while not leaving shooters open outside. Offensively the ball needs to stay in the middle. Getting trapped on the sides will take precious time off the clock in the half court.
For Sioux Falls, good defensive rotations will be a must along with keeping the Knicks from getting offensive rebounds. Sound decisions with the ball in the painted area will go a long way toward success with the offense both with getting shots and drawing fouls.
Game one is Tuesday April 5, 6:00 PM CDT at the Westchester County Center.
Game two is Friday April 8, 7:00 PM CDT at the Sanford Pentagon.
Game three if necessary is Sunday April 10, 7:30 PM CDT at the Sanford Pentagon.