One series down, two to go.
That’s the position Magic Gaming is in after eliminating Hornets Venom GT with a thrilling 3-2 series victory in the opening round of the Coinbase 3v3 STEAL OPEN.
Ever since acquiring Joshua “unguardable” Hunter, one of the world’s most dynamic 3v3 players, the Magic’s confidence has soared, and their execution on both ends of the court has improved. That was once again on display in front of an electric Indianapolis crowd, as they came up with a huge defensive stop in Game 5 before unguardable buried the series-clinching 3-pointer.
Unguardable scored 12 points and made all four of his 3-point attempts, including the one on the final possession that secured Magic Gaming’s 22-14 victory. Robert “May” May, who has been one of the NBA 2K League’s best big men in 3v3 play since the unguardable trade, filled up the box score with 10 points, four rebounds and two assists.
After Glenn “Glennratty” Wilkerson hit a second straight triple to pull Hornets Venom GT within three at 17-14, May had a dunk, Matthew “Matty” Grant collected a steal and unguardable drilled the game-ending three.
It should be obvious at this point that unguardable is one of the best 3v3 players in the world. But in case you weren’t totally certain of that, perhaps his Game 2 performance changed your view. Unguardable racked up 17 points, including nine of Orlando’s last 11 in their 21-14 win. The Magic trailed 12-10 before ending the game on an 11-2 run. Glennratty, who had six points in Game 1, didn’t take a single shot in this contest but did hand out six assists.
Charlotte is a unique 3v3 team in that they rely mostly on scoring at the rim rather than behind the 3-point line. In this contest, even though normally that’s not a recipe for success, it played in their favor, as big man Damon “DJ” Jones exploded for 20 points in the Hornets’ 23-20 win. It was the first time ever in 3v3 2KL action that a center scored 20-plus points. The Magic had a few chances to pull off the sweep but were unable to convert on their final two shots and had two costly turnovers late.
Unguardable struggled a bit in this game, although he did lead the Magic in scoring with nine points. Matty added seven points and May finished with four.
Not only did DJ do his thing offensively, finishing with 12 points and six rebounds, but the Hornets were also stifling defensively in their 21-14 Game 4 victory. Glennratty, although once again a non-factor from a scoring standpoint, came up with a steal on Orlando’s last possession, which led to him scoring his one and only bucket on a breakaway to seal the win. May led the Magic with eight points on 4-of-4 shooting, while unguardable only got off four shots and was held to just three points.
Game 5s are always exciting, regardless of the situation. But this one, especially with what was at stake, turned out even better than expected. Both teams were at game and series bucket on the final three possessions. The first two were defensive gems, as the Hornets stopped the Magic and then the Magic stopped the Hornets. On their next try, Orlando refused to give the ball back, as unguardable buried a series-clinching 3-pointer to propel Magic Gaming to a 22-19 win.
Quotes of the Night
“We expect to win. Going into this, we felt we’re the best team in it. I got full confidence in myself and my team. They got full confidence in me. We expect to be here. We expect to win. This is not a surprise for us to win this series. It should have been 3-0. We had to fight. And showing that we can fight and not fold when they were coming back, that’s a big step. Matty said before the series, when adversity hits, we have to stick together, and that’s what we did.” – unguardable
“It was a lot of fun to play on stage. Obviously, this team had not made it here yet this year and we knew that was going to come with a little adversity early on…Being 19-19 (in Game 5), they had the ball, that’s a situation where you lose a game 90 percent of the time. We had to be able to fight adversity in that situation. But it was a lot of fun. The room was electric, especially at the end of our game because obviously that series was down to the last possession.” – Magic Gaming General Manager and Head Coach Jonah Edwards
Fans will get to see a matchup between arguably the two best 2KL rookies, as unguardable, the fifth overall pick in the 2022 2KL Draft, will go head-to-head against the No. 1 pick, Jaiden “OTTR” Frank, when Magic Gaming takes on Gen.G in the Eastern Conference STEAL OPEN semifinals on Thursday (time TBA). The Tigers eliminated Raptors Uprising GC on Wednesday with a 3-1 series victory. Darjean “ReturnofDJ” Henderson led Gen.G in the closeout game with 10 points, while OTTR had nine. Magic Gaming and Gen.G played one another in 3v3 earlier this season, but that was well before Orlando acquired unguardable.
“Gallo is my man,” unguardable said. “We had aspirations of playing together before he shot up in the draft boards. That was someone I always thought was good. We always had mutual respect for each other. At the end, threes is a guard’s game. The better guard is most likely going to win the majority of the time. It’s going to show who’s the better player. We both have respect for each other, but we’ll see who’s the best when we play tomorrow.”
The two conference winners of the STEAL OPEN will earn spots in the 3v3 playoffs. The other East semifinal matchup will feature NetsGC and Heat Check Gaming.