By Max Minsker
After winning six-straight games, the clock was winding down on T-Wolves Gaming’s season as BearDaBeast dribbled up the court with :11 seconds left in a tie game. 5-Wide was the call, JMoney and JoJo on the right side, FEAST and the unlikely hero TURNUPDEFENSE on the left. One rhythm dribble, two rhythm dribbles, then a signature behind the back. It looked for a second like Bear had run straight into a brick wall, but suddenly he shook free after an almost imperceptible hesitation got Lavishphenom to lurch back toward the perimeter. The crowd gasped as Bear passed up the jumper to drive further into the paint with just four ticks left. In that instant, the defense collapsed around Bear as he delivered the game’s final pass, a rocket to the abandoned corner. With just one second left on the clock, typically mild mannered TURNUPDEFENSE leapt out of his chair for the first time all season, “GREEEEEEN!” FEAST jumped up, hands on his head in disbelief. JoJo shot out of his chair and ripped his headset off, jumping up and down as BearDaBeast went right through –not around– his monitor on his way to the central platform, unleashing the emotion he’s been suppressing during the team’s win streak. TurnUp just sat back down. Coach Justin Butler scrambled onto the stage, trying to save Bear from a fine, and more importantly, a costly technical.
(He would succeed on the latter. The former, not so much).
WHO’S YOUR MAMA NOW?!
— T-Wolves Gaming (@TWolvesGaming) July 17, 2019
It was pure pandemonium for the team that battled back from a 3-6 record, a terminated coach, and a trade demand to clinch the 2K League playoffs in its inaugural season, ending Blazer5’s 14-game winning streak in the process. So what’s next?
After moving JMoney to small forward and JoJo to Center after the team’s week 7 collapse against Cavs Legion GC, T-Wolves Gaming has won seven straight regular season games with a point differential of +16.7 (their composite regular season point differential of +5.8 puts them 5thin the 2K League). During that stretch, Bear has averaged 18 points and 12 assists per game with JMoney adding 20 points per game. Between the two, they’ve captured three consecutive Player of the Week awards, with Bear winning week 12’s award after his late game heroics.
In the Quarterfinals of the 2K League playoffs, T-Wolves Gaming will match up with Kings Guard Gaming. Kings Guard started off the season hot, but skidded to the finish line, going 3-4 in their last 7 games with a point differential of -2.4. Despite their 10-6 regular season record, Kings Guard struggled in tournament play this year, finishing the season with an overall record of 11-10 and a point differential of -1.
Despite these late season struggles, Kings Guard is a formidable first round opponent. Kings point guard Bp is one of the league’s most sophisticated ball handlers; he is consistently able to break down defenders in isolation and generate three point attempts for himself, which he takes – and makes – at a very high clip. The question for the Kings is where the secondary scoring will come from. Bp is sixth in the league in scoring, but the Kings don’t have another player in the top-40. If last week’s hero TURNUPDEFENSE can contain Bp in isolation, the Kings will have to find production elsewhere. If not, the T-Wolves will have to find a way to outscore him.
The last time these two teams met, the T-Wolves walked away with a six-point win in a low-scoring game. Bp was held to 16 points, but JMoney had just 6 – his lowest scoring output in a T-Wolves uniform. It is unlikely this series replicates Week 10’s defensive battle. Expect Bp to come out firing early and often, Bear to find JMoney in 5-out sets, and JoJo and worthingcolt to got at it all series long.
T-Wolves Gaming has faced win-or-go-home scenarios for five straight weeks. At 5p.m. CT tomorrow, the team will face another one. It’s playoff time.