ORLANDO – In the first three seasons of the NBA 2K League, Magic Gaming was on the cusp of playoff contention only to fall just short of reaching the postseason. Now, in season four, Orlando will have one final opportunity to make sure history does not repeat itself.
On Thursday, Magic Gaming will tip off action in THE TICKET, the league’s final tournament of the season, which grants two teams – one from each conference – a spot in the playoffs.
“We’re optimistic,” Magic Gaming General Manager and Head Coach Jonah Edwards explained. “We certainly believe that we, at times, can beat anybody. We’ve shown that. We certainly realize that we’re not the most consistent group at times either. So, we have to be able to put our best games forward here and come in ready to go.”
Orlando (13-15) finished with the eighth-best record in the Eastern Conference, which earned it a first-round bye in THE TICKET. It will likely face Celtics Crossover Gaming (12-16), who’s heavily favored over Hawks Talon GC (6-22), but Magic Gaming could instead go against the winner of Heat Check Gaming (12-16) and Raptors Uprising GC (9-19) in the unlikely event that Atlanta pulls off an upset (the tournament reseeds after each round). Regardless of which teams emerge, Orlando takes on its opponent on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET.
While Magic Gaming will prepare for all three teams, their main focus is on Celtics Crossover Gaming, who’s expected to defeat a Hawks Talon GC squad that’s lost five straight contests.
In their first meeting with Boston earlier this month, Orlando swept the two-game series using an offensive onslaught to surge past the normally defensively sound CLTX and snap their five-game winning streak. Should the two teams meet again, Magic Gaming is well aware of the many challenges that Celtics Crossover Gaming presents.
“(Tayzo “TayZo” Williams) in my eyes is one of the top locks in the 2K League,” Edwards said. “(Jhade “worthingcolt” Black) is a great rebounder. (Tamer “Bulleyy” Mustafa) is a solid power forward. (Sheriff “FT” Cruz) is pretty, pretty solid at the one. He gets to his spots well and continues to shoot efficiently. They actually do pose a number of challenges. That team is actually rather well built despite maybe having not as much skill as other teams. They’re also very hungry to win and prove themselves.”
If Magic Gaming hopes to have a strong showing in the tournament and punch their TICKET to the postseason, they’ll need a few things to happen.
First, they’ll have to be able to handle opponents with very different play styles from round to round with little time for preparation. For example, Orlando could go from facing a defensively oriented Boston team in round two to taking on the Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai, an offensive powerhouse, in the semifinals.
“It’s more about us being able to dictate the pace and control our rhythm in the games,” said Edwards of the keys to a successful TICKET. “Get (teams) to conform to our play. I just genuinely believe that the best teams in the 2K League are able to make the opponents play their style.”
Secondly, they’ll need their star players to be at their best.
That process starts with point guard Brendan “Reizey” Hill, who averaged team highs in points (22.4) and assists (9.9) this season. While an effective scorer, Magic Gaming has been at their best this season when he’s efficient, controls the ball and facilitates at a high level.
They’ll also need big man Robert “May” May to be a factor at both ends of the floor. May finished the regular season with the NBA 2K League’s best field goal percentage (82.4) and second-most rebounds per game (12.6).
Josue “FutureClutch” Acosta Gomez’s presence as the team’s lockdown defender, Daniel “DT” Tlais’ versatility, and Justin “Snubby” Stemerman’s secondary-scoring punch will also all be of the upmost importance to help Magic Gaming win THE TICKET and reach the postseason for the first time in franchise history.
“It would mean a lot for me and would certainly mean a lot to the organization as well,” said Edwards of a potential playoff berth. “We’ve put a lot of work into this, and I know it doesn’t always reflect on the court, but we’re one of the hardest working teams and organizations in the league. I do think that we’re deserving of being in the playoff hunt, at least. We certainly have the talent to put something together if we do make it to (the playoffs).”
All games will air live on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels.