ORLANDO – Not long after Magic Gaming started practicing for the 2020 NBA 2K League season, albeit through social distancing, Head Coach Jonah Edwards could tell he was working with a cohesive group.
With five of the players being veterans and the other a confident rookie, it was very noticeable – at least in Edwards’ eyes – that they were determined to play for one another and not be concerned with individual statistics.
Granted it was just one series, the Magic displayed in their opener against Bucks Gaming on Wednesday night the unity and balance that’s necessary to be a championship contender.
Four Orlando players scored in double figures in a 74-64 Game 1 win, including Brandon “ToXsiK” Raudenbush, who made all six of his shot attempts and posted 19 points. Then in Game 2 to complete the sweep, Brendan “Reizey” Hill and Daniel “DT” Tlais showcased their superb chemistry, combining for 57 points in Orlando’s come-from-behind 66-63 victory.
“Leading up to the game today, we had a ton of momentum,” Edwards said. “We’ve been pretty successful in scrimmages. In general, attitudes have improved and people are starting to turn the corner a little bit. Today was great, but we’re as focused as before – just now on the Wizards (Magic’s next opponent; Friday at 9:30 p.m.).”
As expected with the new best-of-three format while games are being played remotely, adjustments are happening on the fly. Teams are altering schemes as they see fit from game to game, which appeared to be an advantage for Edwards’ savvy, interconnected squad.
The Magic’s 3-point shooting was on point in the first game. They knocked down 13 of their 18 attempts from beyond the arc in that convincing victory. ToXsiK drilled all five of his tries, while Reizey sank four of them and Daniel “djbama” Burge, a star of the “Three For All Showdown” that took place last month, buried three triples.
“We knew exactly what to expect I think, and they did not surprise us from the start,” Edwards said about the Game 1 triumph. “We were actually thrilled when we found out the lineup they were running was what they were running and we thought we had a huge mismatch, especially with DT going to the paint on slips…we just kept working that action and eventually they kept adjusting and that’s when you saw dj have a couple big shots, that’s when you see ToXsiK have a ton of threes. We really had an answer for everything they wanted to do defensively.”
Game 2, on the other hand, was far more about Reizey and DT’s pick-and-roll play. With the floor well-spaced, the two returnees from last year’s team executed the high screen-and-roll to perfection. Reizey, last season’s Rookie of the Year and an MVP finalist, finished with 30 points, while DT recorded 27 points, many of which were dunks.
Having already played together for a season, Reizey and DT recognize how effective they can both be when they are in sync.
“Our chemistry on the court is really unmatched,” said Reizey, who shot 11-of-17 in Game 2. “We just kind of understand each other’s game and know what each other is going to do.”
Something else the Magic showed they have as a team is resiliency. The Magic trailed by as much as 11 in the first half of Game 2 before gradually stealing away the momentum. Even with Milwaukee’s Reginald “Regg” Nash, the 12th overall pick in the 2020 draft, having a huge night with 36 points in Game 1 and 41 in Game 2, the Magic stuck to their core principles to prevent a Game 3 from happening.
Robert “May” May’s defense was a huge factor. He and DT helped limit Tyler “Plondo” Lay to just two points in Game 2, which is significant considering Milwaukee’s big man averaged 18.3 points during last year’s regular season. The rest of the squad, including Reizey, made things awfully difficult for one of the Bucks’ other top players, Aaron “Arooks” Rookwood, who was held to 11 points in the closeout game.
“The switch with May to the pick-and-roll really, really helped and it even neutralized what Regg was getting in the paint, too,” Edwards said. “Robbie in the pick-and-roll, I think, it’s understated how much impact he had late in that game. That steal he had on Plondo in the fourth quarter was just massive. It was a huge play.”
Be sure to tune in to the NBA 2K League’s Twitch or YouTube channels on Friday when Magic Gaming returns to action to take on Wizards District Gaming at 9:30 p.m.