Two weeks ago, Magic Gaming ended Gen.G’s 3v3 season in the STEAL OPEN, a tournament Orlando ultimately won. On Wednesday, the Tigers of Shanghai got some payback by knocking the Magic out on the 5v5 side with a best-of-three sweep in the opening round of the playoffs.
Magic Gaming’s strong finish to the season, however, gives the franchise plenty to look forward to. Not only do they have a talented core to build with, regardless of whom they choose to retain from this group, but, as team General Manager and Head Coach Jonah Edwards acknowledges, they have established a collective confidence and enthusiasm that they expect to carry with them into the offseason.
“I feel really good about the foundation of our organization, where we stand, and how we are going to be transitioning into the offseason,” Edwards said. “Ultimately, the Magic organization is one of the best in this league. We have a great culture and foundation with the group of guys we have now, and no matter who we keep from this roster, I think we are going to be in a good position going in the offseason. I felt that way at the start of the year, too – to be fair. At no point did that confidence in our environment and culture waver. Our atmosphere is very, very positive, very, very conducive for growth and learning. I truly believe that, and that’s one of my main focuses.”
One of the main reasons Magic Gaming advanced to the 5v5 playoffs was because of their smothering defense. Not many teams, particularly during seed week action and THE TICKET, were more locked in on that end of the court than Orlando.
That didn’t translate over to the opener of this series, as Magic Gaming fell behind early and just had no answer for Gen.G’s offensive attack in a 76-55 loss.
As is the case in most 5v5 2KL games, the team that gets the most out of their shooting guard tends to have the edge. That was certainly true in this contest, as the Tigers’ Darjean “ReturnofDJ” Henderson erupted for 22 points, while his backcourt partner and 2022 first overall draft pick Jaiden “OTTR” Frank recorded 17 points and 10 assists. Five-year veteran Mihad “Feast” Feratovic was a load inside, finishing with 18 points and 15 rebounds.
Joshua “unguardable” Hunter had an off game, making just six of his 18 shot attempts, including five of his 14 3-point attempts. The rookie guard did lead Orlando, however, with 18 points, while Wesley “Gen” McNair, acquired along with unguardable in that four-team blockbuster trade in June, posted 16 points and Robert “May” May tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Through the first three quarters, the Magic looked much more like the team that cruised through the Eastern Conference portion of the TICKET. They were making the Tigers work deep into the shot clock, making smart reads on offense, and Gen started to sizzle.
But, in the 2KL, a few mistakes can turn things sideways fast. Some costly Orlando turnovers gave Gen.G the openings they needed to break through and ultimately pull out a 60-55 closeout victory.
“Some defensive breakdowns at times,” Edwards said. “They were really good late (in the) shot clock. The majority of their points – it felt like to me at least – (came) late in the shot clock, last six seconds there. And (they had) a lot of second-chance points. Feast had a great series, was grabbing a lot of offensive rebounds. Then, in the fourth, we were a little stymy there. We got a little stagnant. Hindsight is 20/20. I’m living and dying with Josh’s ability to create.”
OTTR led Gen.G’s balanced offensive attack with 17 points, while ReturnOfDJ posted 15, Feast had 14 and Donald “BxmpyDon” Newsome, who also forced the Magic into some of those critical turnovers down the stretch, finished with 11 points.
Unguardable, once again, struggled to get into a rhythm, going 4-of-13 from the field, including 3-of-10 from downtown. Gen led Orlando with 22 points, unguardable scored 11 and May notched a second straight double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
Quote of the Night
“It’s awesome to even be in the position we were in after the incredible week we had two weeks ago. It’s been a long time in Indy – three weeks now. It’s very bittersweet the ending of course, but this group was very resilient – start to finish, especially those three that were with us the whole way, and the two newcomers came in and bought right in and did their best. We can only hold our head high, in my opinion. We worked as hard as we physically can. I think when it comes to that, you leave it all out there. There’s nothing else you can do. We were prepared. We knew what to expect this week. We knew it was going to be an uphill battle. We knew we had a shot at it. I think game two showed we could have had a shot at it.” – Edwards