ORLANDO – In games this season when they have gotten off to a sluggish start, Magic Gaming has usually stayed the course and either pulled out a narrow victory or have come up just a tad short. On Thursday night, playing against the hottest team in the NBA 2K League, falling behind by double digits in the first quarter of both games proved too costly despite closing the gap in each as Hornets Venom GT, THE TURN champs, completed the sweep.
Game 1: Basketball, live or virtual, is typically a game of runs. That was apparent in the opener of this matchup.
Hornets Venom GT used a 13-0 run to jump out to an early double-digit lead. Magic Gaming responded with a strong second quarter and eventually tied the game. But Charlotte, behind stellar play from their point guard-center duo of Justin “Sherm” Sherman and Peter “PeteBeBallin” Malin, reclaimed control with another big burst in the second half to cruise to a 78-65 victory.
Sherm led all scorers with 24 points, PeteBeBallin had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Craig “rigby” Burnett Jr., the MVP of THE TURN, posted 16 points and 10 of Charlotte’s 25 assists.
Both teams shot it well from deep. The Magic hit 13 triples and the Hornets made 12 of them.
Turnovers, which also hindered them during their TURN series against NetsGC, made it tougher for the Magic to slow the Hornets down in transition.
“We just have to do a better job of not turning it over early in games and making sure we are taking higher quality shots,” Magic Gaming General Manager and Head Coach Jonah Edwards said. “I just think a lot of times we get out of our rhythm and when we are out of our rhythm we are really easy to guard. When we are like that obviously we are just not playing winning basketball.”
Playing his former team for the first time since getting traded to Orlando in the offseason, Justin “Snubby” Stemerman drilled five 3-pointers as part of his 19-point performance. Sherm, traded with PeteBeBallin to the Hornets from Mavs Gaming last fall, made all five of his 3-point tries.
Brendan “Reizey” Hill scored 17 points and dished out 13 assists for the Magic, who were outscored by 21 in the first and third quarters combined. Daniel “DT” Tlais had 13 points and Robert “May” May chipped in with eight points and 16 rebounds.
Game 2: Similar to the opener, Hornets Venom GT raced out to a sizeable advantage before Magic Gaming stormed back in the second quarter. Although they trimmed a 15-point deficit to two, Orlando was unable to jump in front at any point as Charlotte notched an 82-75 win.
Much of the Magic’s offense in the first half came from an unsuspecting source, as lockdown defender Josue “FutureClutch” Acosta Gomez registered all 13 of his points before the break. Reizey came on strong late and finished with 25 points and 14 assists, while May (15 points, 10 rebounds) and Snubby (14 points) also reached double figures in scoring.
Rigby erupted for 30 points for the Hornets and hit a dagger 3-pointer from the right wing with 59 seconds left. Sherm tallied 20 points and 10 dimes.
“The biggest thing that second game is rigby was running in transition, mainly off of bad shots and turnovers and obviously when he’s able to do that he’s going to get going,” Edwards said. “We did a better job of slowing him down in the first game. I believe he had five points at halftime and that to us is a winning recipe against the Hornets. If we just didn’t have so many turnovers, we probably would have been in the driver’s seat in that game. Easy to play the game in hindsight.”
Interestingly, if not for a dunk by Robert “Trap” Elizondo in the final seconds, Orlando would have only been outscored in the first quarter of this contest. They closed the gap in the second period with a 24-18 edge and stayed within striking distance in the third with a 18-14 advantage. The Hornets won the final frame 26-24.
Magic Gaming, now 10-10, will look to bounce back from Thursday’s losses when they take on Jazz Gaming on Saturday starting at 7 p.m. Utah will be playing for a second consecutive night when Orlando visits their virtual gym. The prior night, the Jazz will square off against Lakers Gaming.
Kimanni “Splashy” Ingram, the NBA 2K League’s second leading scorer this season, is coming off a strong set of games in THE TURN. He was particularly impressive in the Round of 16 series sweep over Grizz Gaming, combining for 61 points in those two contests.
Quote of the Night
“It certainly can be a plus to have a turnaround here as long as we have a short memory. Obviously, we are going to find out what we are made of on Saturday night when we play Utah because with an 0-2 performance this evening we are going to need at least one, probably two on Saturday. We are certainly going to see what Magic Gaming is made of…We certainly do rise to the occasion typically in big games. There certainly is not a team in the league we don’t think we can beat, especially in a best-of-three series or even one game in a two-game matchup.” – Edwards