By Max Minsker
Another do-or-die situation, another win for T-Wolves Gaming. Last night, the team extended their winning streak to nine games after sweeping Kings Guard Gaming in the NBA 2K League Quarterfinals 2-0.
The T-Wolves shot out of the gate in game 1, leading Kings Guard 18-8 after the first quarter. Kings Guard made run in the second half, cutting the lead to three at the end of the third quarter. For this T-Wolves Gaming team, it was an all-too-familiar feeling; too many times this team has built a big first half lead only to watch it slip away in the fourth quarter. However, this time the team held on, pushing the lead back to double digits and ultimately winning the game 64-51.
The Kings used a brand-new lineup in game 2, shifting BallLikeSeem to power forward and using Yusuf_Scarbz as a two-way sharpshooter at small forward to contain JMoney. By injecting another defensive archetype into their perimeter rotation, the Kings bet big on point guard (and MVP finalist) Bp’s ability to score in half court sets. T-Wolves lockdown defender TURNUPDEFENSE had other plans, holding Bp to just six points on 2/9 shooting while forcing six turnovers. The Kings could not generate enough offense to win, scoring just 49 points in the game.
BearDaBeast was the lynchpin of T-Wolves Gaming’s offense in the series, averaging 22.5 points and 10 assists per game while shooting 70% from the field and 80% from three. Bear continued his ascent up the 2K League point guard hierarchy with this performance, outplaying MVP candidate Bp.
🧹 T-Wolves Gaming Sweeps Kings Guard Gaming 🧹@TWolvesGaming 56@KingsGuardGG 49@BearDaBeast23 (22 PTS, 9 AST) leads T-Wolves Gaming to the semifinals of the playoffs with another dominating performance. pic.twitter.com/Op82CAuoTe
— NBA2KLeague (@NBA2KLeague) July 26, 2019
Bear’s production – both in terms of scoring and passing – has increased substantially during the second half of the season. He went from being a 16 & 7 player early in the season to a 20 & 10 player as the T-Wolves have shifted toward a 5-out, iso-heavy style. Bear uses a wide variety of moves and combos to manipulate defenders, and they were all on display in game 2.
Bear may go for a rhythm dribble blow-by to get to the basket on one possession, then fake the rhythm dribble and drive the next. Those drives setup his signature walk-back three perfectly, which he can turn into a behind the back drive if the defender overplays it. Bear is hard to stop because he reads his defender intuitively and doesn’t decide if he’s going to use a move or its counter until it’s too late for the defense to react. With four shooters around him, Bear has all the space he needs to maneuver in isolation. For T-Wolves Gaming, the proof is in the pudding. Bear has emerged as an MVP-caliber point guard during the team’s active 9-game winning streak, and they will continue to rely on him to catalyze the offense with just four teams remaining.
The only thing standing between T-Wolves Gaming and a 2K League Finals berth is Warriors Gaming Squad, a team that won two in-season tournaments, and features one of the most dangerous starting lineups in the 2K League. After an end of season slump, Warriors Gaming Squad is back after throttling number one overall seed Blazer5 Gaming in a 2-0 sweep on Wednesday.
Warriors lockdown defender Gradient made the NBA 2K League’s All-Defensive team and is one of the best on-ball defenders in the league. Bear will need to be at his best to consistently beat Gradient, and he may need to rely on JMoney to create more than usual – a role he is more than capable of fulfilling. The Warriors are an excellent defensive team, but the T-Wolves have been equally good on offense. It’s exactly the type of matchup one would expect to see in the semifinals.
On the other side of the ball, the Warriors run a much different type of offense than the T-Wolves, though it has still been extremely effective at times. The Warriors use more movement than isolation and rely more heavily on their front court to score. Small forward Bsmoove is one of the best wing scorers in the league, and both Jin and Type are dynamic in their own right. Type’s ability to defend the pick and roll effectively at center allows the Warriors to play Jin in an offensively focused role, one he is well suited for. The Warriors don’t get as much production from their guards, but they create mismatches by generating their scoring opportunities away from the matchups where thier opponents traditionally use their best defensive players.
These teams split their season series 1-1; the Warriors eliminated the T-Wolves from The Ticket, then the T-Wolves came back and beat them two weeks later. It’s a matchup that features elite players, explosive personalities, and two Coach of the Year candidates – not to mention two of the best cheering sections. One of these teams will compete for the 2K League championship next Saturday, and the other will go home. Game 1 starts tonight at 4p.m. CT at www.Twitchtv/NBA2KLeague.