Back on June 2, Magic Gaming lost a heartbreaker to Hawks Talon GC in THE TURN. Of course, that was nearly two months before Orlando acquired Joshua “unguardable” Hunter and Wesley “Gen” McNair in that four-team blockbuster trade. About three weeks after the deal, the Magic squared off against Celtics Crossover Gaming during 5v5 seed week play. They lost by 29.
On Saturday, playing against those same two opponents in the Eastern Conference Semifinals and Finals, respectively, in THE TICKET, the Magic showed how far they’ve come by sticking to their defensive principles and persevering through adversity.
First crushing the Hawks by 24 and then knocking off the Celtics by 10, the Magic have skyrocketed up the 5v5 power rankings, just like they have on the 3v3 side, and now find themselves in the NBA 2K League Championships in both modes.
Their win streak did end, however, in THE TICKET final with a loss to Mavs Gaming, who took home the $50,000 cash prize.
Recap vs. Hawks Talon GC
A tightly contested first half turned into a blowout after intermission, as Magic Gaming seized full control behind tenacious team defense, excellent ball protection, and scorching shooting from their dynamic backcourt in a 75-51 victory over Hawks Talon GC in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Gen erupted for 25 points on 10-of-18 shooting overall and 5-of-10 from 3-point range, while unguardable fired off 24 points on 8-of-15 shooting overall and 6-of-8 from beyond the arc to go along with dishing out 11 assists. Robert “May” May filled up the box score with eight points, 15 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocks and Justin “Snubby” Stemerman, who has adjusted well to the power forward spot, recorded 12 points and four rebounds.
The Magic made things awfully difficult on the Hawks’ backcourt of Caesar “Ceez” Martinez and John “Witness” Mushaben, who combined to shoot 8-of-24 from the field and 5-of-18 from downtown. Ceez, one of the league’s best scoring point guards, only made one shot in the entire second half.
Orlando not committing a single turnover prevented Atlanta from scoring any easy baskets in transition. They also limited the Hawks to just one free throw attempt.
A four-point game at the half, the Magic outscored the Hawks by 20 the rest of the way.
Recap vs. Celtics Crossover Gaming
Maybe earlier in the season, a 10-0 run by an opponent coming out of halftime would discourage Magic Gaming. Not now with how confident and poised they have become.
Orlando went from up six at the break to down four in just a matter of minutes. But then, unguardable did unguardable things. The electrifying rookie guard hit back-to-back 3-pointers to reverse the momentum, and then had another one later in the period which put the Magic back in front.
From there, it was pretty much all Magic, as their defensive intensity picked up and they continued to make all the right reads on offense in a 59-49 victory over Celtics Crossover Gaming to qualify for the NBA 2K League 5v5 Championships.
Gen once again led Orlando in scoring with 21 points, while unguardable finished with 20 points and 11 assists. May, who was per usual brilliant defensively and on the glass, recorded eight points, 15 rebounds, one assist and five steals.
Just as was the case against Ceez of the Hawks, the Magic didn’t allow Boston’s dynamic point guard, Sheriff “FT” Cruz, from getting into any kind of rhythm. He scored just 10 points on 4-of-11 shooting overall and 2-of-7 from 3-point range.
The turnover disparity was a big factor as well, as the Celtics coughed the ball up six more times than the Magic.
Recap vs. Mavs Gaming
With no time to prepare for their opponent in the final having just locked up a playoff spot with their win over Celtics Crossover Gaming, it took a bit for Magic Gaming to get into a flow.
By the time they did, it was a little too late, as the Magic were unable to pull off the comeback in a 63-58 loss to Mavs Gaming.
Kenneth “KennyZeus” Grant, the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA 2KL Draft, had the hot hand early and finished with 19 points and 10 assists, while his backcourt mate, Jarvis “Jarvis” Thompson, chipped in with 16 points and Gerald “Sick One” Knapp, one of the few five-year players in the league, posted 14 points, 14 rebounds and seven assists.
Unguardable led the Magic with 19 points and 13 assists, while Gen tallied 18 points and May had 16 points and 10 rebounds.
Down double digits much of the second half, Orlando rallied and got within one when unguardable drilled one of his three triples with 2:55 left in the fourth. Jeri “Jarsity” Pena sank a right corner 3-pointer of his own on Dallas’ next possession, which started a 7-2 Mavs run.
Unlike in their first two games, Orlando couldn’t force Dallas into many mistakes until the fourth quarter. The Mavs committed just six turnovers in the game.
The Magic went 7-1 in Indianapolis this week in the STEAL and TICKET combined.
Quotes of the Night
“We definitely trusted the process. We still worked really hard. We never gave up on the season, especially when we attained a new player. We worked hard with that player. We got them to believe that if we work hard we can start winning some games, and it really worked out. We made the playoffs, and we are going to continue to work hard and hopefully make a push in both playoffs.” – May
“The guys came in, showed up ready to play today. It was in the air going in. We just felt really confident. I would compare it very similarly to our victory just a few nights ago in the STEAL. We came in and things were just clicking – clicking the right way. In both those games (vs. Hawks and Celtics), we followed the game plan really, really well and we stayed very, very disciplined. Even against Atlanta, we finished the game with zero turnovers. That’s very rare in this league and we were able to do that. We just played to our tempo and our pace. We dictated everything in those first two series, and that’s why we were able to win.” – Magic Gaming General Manager and Head Coach Jonah Edwards
Magic Gaming now shifts their attention back to the blacktop as they prepare for the NBA 2K League 3v3 Championships, which get underway on Wednesday, Aug. 17 in Indianapolis. Orlando’s opening-round opponent will be Handlez, the best amateur team from the earlier tournaments. This won’t be the first time the Magic and Handlez will square off. They played twice in group play in the SLAM OPEN. Handlez won both series – the first one in three and the second one in five – but that was well before Orlando had unguardable on the roster.