A staple of Magic Gaming’s DNA last season was their confidence. They always believed they can play well against the league’s top opponents, which they did on multiple occasions such as on the final day of the regular season when they knocked Celtics Crossover Gaming out of playoff contention with a memorable victory in the finale.
Although this season is only four games old, already we are seeing a similar mindset from this year’s group, who pushed the defending TIPOFF champs to the very end before falling short in a 57-53 loss in the semifinals on Saturday.
Christopher “BreadWinnerLA” Lafanette drilled a 3-point dagger with 3.7 seconds left for 76ers GC, which overcame a double-digit first-half deficit to eliminate the Magic from the tournament.
During their extended stay in New York, the Magic showed the rest of the league why they shouldn’t be overlooked this season. On Tuesday in group pool play, Magic Gaming defeated the expansion Nets behind smothering defense and then took down the reigning NBA 2K League champion Knicks in an instant classic double overtime thriller.
Earlier in the day on Saturday, the Magic cruised past another up-and-coming team in Raptors Uprising GC in the quarterfinals before giving the Sixers fits.
“The expectations we had set for ourselves was to make it out of groups, so anything above we kept saying is house money,” Magic Gaming Head Coach Jonah Edwards said. “We’re definitely not happy right now (after loss to 76ers) but I think we’re one of the better teams in the league and we look to prove everyone wrong again this week, Thursday against the Cavs and Friday against the Nets.”
Perhaps most impressive about their showing in THE TIPOFF was their stifling defense. An example of their toughness and persistence came against the Sixers when Emmanuel “UCMANNY” Cruz, whom Edwards believes is the league’s best lockdown defender, made things awfully difficult for Ethan “Radiant” White, arguably the league’s most prolific point guard.
Both the Nets and Raptors only scored 42 points against the Magic and the Sixers failed to score more than 16 points in any of the four quarters. Radiant, in that contest, was held to 13 points, his lowest scoring total of the season so far.
“It’s hard to play elite defense when we are not playing elite offense, it really is, so the fact that we were able to do that in this tournament without really opening it up on offense for the most part shows that we really are an elite defensive team,” Edwards said. “We’re definitely a defensive team and it’s definitely what we focus on in practice, so it makes sense that that’s one of our biggest strengths every game.”
The interior dominance of Cameron “KingCamRoyalty” Ford, who recorded double-doubles in all four games, really stood out, also. He and UCMANNY are the two players the Magic retained from last season.
The newcomers are already making a big impact, too. Daniel “DT” Tlais and Mykel “KelMav” Wilson, the second and third round picks respectively in last month’s draft, have both been solid. Against the 76ers, they combined for 31 points on 12-of-20 shooting from the floor and 7-of-10 from 3-point range. Brendan “Reizey” Hill, meanwhile, dished out 18 assists in Saturday’s games combined.
Thursday’s regular season opener against Cavs Legion GC is set for 8 p.m. The Magic play Nets GC on Friday at 10 p.m.