With the 2K league finals being decided by three points in both games, every single defensive stop ultimately brought the Knicks that much closer to a championship title.
Standing in the way of history was Miami’s Hotshot, a scoring phenom who averaged nearly 30 points a game during the season.
So how did Knicks Gaming do it?
They assigned Natekahl to be their 5-Out stopper. It’s important to note that in the 2K League, being a lockdown defender doesn’t necessarily mean shutting a player down, but instead making key defensive plays that control the momentum of the game.
Hotshot was still able to average 41 points in the finals, while only missing nine total shots. But it was both how and when he missed those nine shots that proved to be significant.
There were several instances where Hotshot gained the “Heat Indicator”, which is earned after several successful made buckets, and gives a player boosts in various offensive ratings. But nearly every time this happened, Natekahl came up with a stop to take the “Heat Indicator” away. Let’s take a look at these moments:
On the previous drive, Hotshot had put Nate on an island, gave him one pump fake, and proceeded to dunk all over the Knicks’ defensive star. This would give Hotshot the heat indicator, and proceeded to isolate the Knicks once more.
As detailed in the clip above, Nate isn’t fooled with the same pump fake move and rejects Hotshot. This turnover results in a fast break leak out and eventual Yey and-1 dunk. What could have been only a five-point deficit, quickly turned into a 10-point lead right before the Heat’s eyes.
With Heat Check Gaming needing a strong start to the second half of game one, Hotshot delivers for his team with three consecutive baskets, giving him the heat indicator for the second time in the game.
With momentum beginning to tilt in favor of Miami, Nate forces Hotshot to give up the ball on the next two possessions. Even though they result in the open looks below, the Knicks accomplished their goal and forced Hotshot’s supporting cast to hit timely jumpers. And unfortunately for Heat Check Gaming, these two shots rimmed out.
In the next possession, Hotshot takes things into his own hands and converts an isolation dunk. On the next trip down, the Miami superstar regains his heat indicator while Nate once again goes cold.
None of this matters to Nate as he puts the clamps on Hotshot and forces him to give it up to Dropoff. With Nate’s savvy ability to guard two players at once, and a quick show by Goofy from the corner, Hotshot fires off a rushed midrange jumper that clanks off the iron.
In this last example, let’s fast forward to the exciting 4th quarter finish. At this point in the game, Miami is 1-for-5 when Hotshot has his heat indicator. With their backs up against the wall, Hotshot attempts a quick hitter pass to a cutting Dropoff, but then this happens:
At this point, Heat Check Gaming decide to go deeper into their playbook, and begin to feature Dropoff a bit more.
This, however, proves to be too little too late. Forcing Hotshot to give up the ball, miss shots, and turn the ball over is already a difficult task for anyone. But even with a rating disadvantage, Natekahl managed to successfully stop Hotshot several times, and help land New York the inaugural 2K League championship.