Trailing by two with less than a minute remaining, Magic Gaming desperately needed a defensive stop. It appeared that was going to happen, as the Magic’s defense on that possession was stifling for the first 22 seconds of the shot clock.
When Pacers Gaming point guard Matt “Matty” Grant received the pass from teammate Nick “Swizurk” Grech just before the shot clock was set to expire, however, nothing was certain anymore.
That’s because Matty, the Pacers’ third round pick in the 2019 draft who was averaging just 9.7 points per game prior to Wednesday’s contest, was spectacular all night. As part of his career-best 31-point eruption, the 24-year-old from Los Angeles drilled a tough jumper with 34 seconds left as he was fading backwards near the free throw line, which helped secure the Pacers’ 61-57 victory over the Magic.
Matty’s breakout performance masked what was otherwise a solid defensive effort by the Magic, who limited the Pacers’ two best scorers coming into the night, Swizurk and “Ramo” Radoncic, to a combined 21 points.
Before Matty’s dagger, the Magic had pulled within one when Mykel “KelMav” Wilson buried a 3-pointer with 1:25 remaining. Matty responded on Indiana’s ensuing possession, however, by converting on an AND-1 layup.
Daniel “DT” Tlais delivered another sensational performance for the Magic, who led by four at halftime. The Magic’s second round draft pick posted 22 points on 9-of-15 shooting from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.
“I think DT is the best power forward in the league,” Magic Gaming Head Coach Jonah Edwards said. “He’s consistent. He always hits his open shots. I think without question he brings a lot of energy to the team. He’s definitely one of our biggest leaders. I can’t really articulate how tough of a task it is for him on a slashing stretch shooter like he is to be able to guard Swizurk as a shooter, that’s just a really tough matchup and there’s not another power forward in the league that’s up to the task.”
Playing against his former team, Tucker “TuckerLocksUp” Henry recorded 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, while Brendan “Reizey” Hill amassed 11 points and 12 assists.
Although disappointed about the loss, the 2-3 Magic, who will head to Las Vegas next week to compete in THE TURN, are confident about where they stand right now. They have pushed some of the league’s premier teams, including the undefeated Pacers and the back-to-back TIPOFF champs, the 76ers, down to the wire, something few teams have been able to do.
“It’s funny how it works because the Pacers happen to be one of the better defensive teams in the league and we were able to score on them a little bit today,” Edwards said. “There’s other games where we’re not necessarily going against a top-tier defense where our defense has shown up but our offense isn’t necessarily there. Once we get both of them on the same page, we will be an elite championship caliber team. I think we’re really just one or two steps away from being that good.”