By Kristian Cuaresma
Just over a year ago, NetsGC fell to Hornets Venom GT 2-0 in the opening round of the NBA 2K League Season Three playoffs. In Game One, NetsGC couldn’t overcome a lackluster first quarter in which the team scored only eight points, and ultimately lost 69-74. Brooklyn’s quicker start in the second game was negated by a back-and-forth contest that featured all four quarters being decided by just one point.
Tonight, NetsGC has an opportunity to exorcize its demons by capturing both its first playoff victory and playoff series win. In a year that has featured many firsts for the franchise, it is a definite possibility, but certain factors must fall into place.
Let’s take a closer look at the team that stands in the way of what could be NetsGC’s most successful season ever – 76ers GC.
SEASON FOUR RESULTS
Not only did Brooklyn and Philadelphia play each other four times in the regular season, but they did so in a span of eight days. While both teams either look or play differently heading into the postseason, for comparison purposes, let’s examine those past results.
- NetsGC defeated 76ers GC 74-65
- 76ers GC defeated NetsGC 90-59
- NetsGC defeated 76ers GC 77-59
- 76ers GC defeated NetsGC 74-67
On the surface, what stands out the most about these results is how neither team has been able to reel off two consecutive wins and that both teams have a blowout victory under their belt. This sets the table for a classic contest between two mid-seeded teams.
SEASON FOUR MATCHUP STATISTICS
Below are each of the NetsGC players’ averages specifically against 76ers GC, categorized by their overall numbers, along with stats both in wins and losses. Legit has been left out due to only registering one total shot in two games. The second-year power forward did average 2.0 rebounds and 0.5 assists.
Choc vs. 76ers GC
- Overall – 29.3 points, 12.0 assist, 5.0 turnovers, 49% field goal, 45% three point
- Wins – 35.0 points, 12.5 assists, 2.0 turnovers, 56% field goal, 48% three point
- Losses – 23.5 points, 11.5 assists, 8.0 turnovers, 40% field goal, 40% three point
Faiz vs. 76ers GC
- Overall – 8.5 points, 0.8 steals, 54% field goal, 47% three point
- Wins – 7.0 points, 1.0 steals, 56% field goal, 50% three point
- Losses – 10.0 points, 0.5 steals, 53% field goal, 44% three point
SlayIsland vs. 76ers GC
- Overall – 7.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.3 steals, 53% field goal, 62% three point
- Wins – 7.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals, 50% field goal, 50% three point
- Losses – 7.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals, 56% field goal, 80% three point
Shotz vs. 76ers GC
- Overall – 20.3 points, 10.8 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 0.8 blocks, 78% field goal
- Wins – 19.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 0.5 blocks, 77% field goal
- Losses – 21.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.0 blocks, 78% field goal
Dante vs. 76ers GC
- Overall – 8.5 points, 1.0 steals, 64% field goal, 43% three point
- Wins – 15.0 points, 1.0 steals, 75% field goal, 60% three point
- Losses – 2.0 points, 1.0 steals, 33% field goal, 0% three point
At quick glance, the numbers that stand out most strikingly belong to Choc and Dante. There’s a simple explanation for Choc’s importance to NetsGC’s success against 76ers GC, and that’s the fact that he is a legitimate contender for the league’s regular season MVP award. He plays the most important position on the floor, and he does it like very few can.
When Dante is productive and efficient it often results in a NetsGC victory, and this is especially true against 76ers GC. While Faiz, SlayIsland and Shotz each have a reliable baseline in all four games against Philadelphia, Dante represents the swing factor.
When the rookie lock is aggressive on both sides of the ball, NetsGC is an entirely different team. Against other opponents – playoff teams included – Brooklyn has been able to overcome a poor game from Dante. However, against Philadelphia, it can be particularly difficult, specifically because Dre and OneWildWalnut have the talent to keep pace with Choc and Shotz.
WHAT’S DIFFERENT NOW?
While there is valuable analysis to be gleaned from their previous matchups, a lot has changed for both squads in the eleven weeks that have passed since their last contest.
NetsGC Has Embraced Its Identity
In the opening month of the season, NetsGC – like many of its rivals – attempted to figure out what kind of team it wanted to be. Brooklyn was not shy about experimenting with various lineup and archetype combinations, resulting in “Mystery Box NetsGC”, a team that was tricky to gameplan around because opponents couldn’t confidently assume what NetsGC would look like on game day.
The entire experience was akin to solving a Rubik’s Cube, with moments of clarity that convinced fans the team was on the verge of figuring it all out. However, these moments were fleeting and bookended by disappointing performances reminding the roster it still had work to do.
Ironically, after Brooklyn’s back-to-back sets against Philadelphia in early June, the team finally chose a specific lineup and archetype construction. Once NetsGC wrapped up its games against defending champions Wizards DG, the team went on to win seven of its next eight games.
NetsGC doesn’t pretend it has an elite defense, but key adjustments such as using Choc’s ability to defend up top to spark the transition game, along with incorporating SlayIsland and Shotz’s versatility in both the pick and roll and out of the corner have produced positive results.
The flamethrower offense is still as explosive as ever, and the team now relies on getting stops in big moments to keep momentum on its side or open the flood gates.
Is Arooks the Answer?
76ers GC began its year attempting to replace the legendary hole in its roster left by former franchise point guard Radiant. Initially, it hinged its hopes on the backcourt duo of Dre and Caliraq. While Dre took a few weeks to get acclimated to the league build, the rookie has rewarded the franchise with using the No. 4 overall selection on him, a pick that was acquired in the Radiant trade. Unfortunately for Caliraq, the team didn’t feel like it had the right combination to keep up with some of the other high-powered backcourts in the league.
Emerging from its Week Four bye, 76ers GC unveiled a new lineup after trading Caliraq to Bucks Gaming for Arooks. Draft picks aside, 76ers GC hoped this adjustment would provide them the spark needed to compete for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Philadelphia eventually held on to qualify for the postseason, but the change at shooting guard provided mixed results:
76ers GC record with Caliraq: 6-4
76ers GC record with Arooks: 10-8
Caliraq Season Four averages
- 9 points, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 47.2% field goal, 41.0% three point
Arooks Season Four averages:
- 7 points, 1.7 assists, 0.8 steals, 47.9% field goal, 46.9% three point
The encouraging sign for 76ers GC is that Arooks is shooting at a better clip from three and is scoring more pointers per game (albeit on more shot attempts), but like Caliraq, the veteran guard ranks at the bottom of the league in field goal percentage.
BRIDGE TO VICTORY?
There’s no doubt Choc and Shotz will get theirs. Choc has been itching to get back to the playoffs since his early exit last year, and Shotz was extremely close to a championship with Kings Guard Gaming. Let’s examine what we can expect from the auxiliary options:
All season long, SlayIsland has been on a mission to prove his doubters wrong. Cast aside after a disappointing rookie campaign in 2019 during which he was selected in the first round, SlayIsland almost missed out on the league for a second consecutive time. Thankfully, NetsGC selected him in this year’s draft. Initially perceived as a sixth man, SlayIsland quickly carved out a role for himself as the team’s starting power forward and hasn’t looked back since.
While SlayIsland has been consistent throughout Season Four, much has changed with his role since he last played against 76ers GC. In the 16 regular season games since then, SlayIsland averaged 14.1 points and finished with double digit scoring in all but five of those contests. By comparison, SlayIsland scored more than 10 points in only three of the team’s first twelve games.
His snipe shooting efficiency from the corner and the comfort he has with guarding multiple positions is a new element that 76ers GC didn’t have to deal with earlier in the year.
Coming into his rookie season, expectations were high for the sharp shooting Canadian, especially after Choc claimed Faiz would be considered one of the best sharps in the league by end of season. While some could argue he hasn’t yet earned that distinction, it is difficult to put all of the blame on Faiz. Due to the team playing around with various lineups and archetypes, Faiz has bounced between playing sharp and lock this year, impressively showing moments of brilliance in either role. And while his lock playing days may now seem a distant memory, you can sometimes see glimpses of his defensive abilities, especially when he gets switched onto a point guard.
The patch for NetsGC will be getting key contributions from him as Choc’s right-hand man. Now more than ever, the role of the secondary ball handler is key to a team’s success. If Faiz can bail Choc out in short clock situations or provide Choc with a breather on a few possessions, it’ll go a long way in counteracting whatever creative defensive schemes 76ers GC put together.
Faiz also goes by another alias – The Doctor – and there’s no doubt that he could have the remedy to cure any potential scoring slumps NetsGC suffers from.
The rookie lock’s potential as a high impact ‘X-Factor’ to this series has already been dissected ad nauseam – and it doesn’t necessarily have to come on the defensive end. When Dante has finished with at least 10 points, NetsGC is 5-3, with those losses coming against the reigning champions Wizards DG and the Dimez iteration of Raptors Uprising. It’s also encouraging this increased output hasn’t required many additional shot attempts. In these double-digit scoring games, the rookie is shooting a blistering 77 percent from the field and an equally impressive 71 percent from deep. Defenses have recently opted to staying home on SlayIsland, and so when Dante gets an opportunity to let one fly (especially off an offensive rebound from Shotz), it’s imperative that he knocks them down.
On the defensive end, the expectation seems to be that Dante gets stops at crucial moments in the game. There will be times where 76ers GC point guard Dre gets his takeover or when the opposing team goes on a mini run and it’s during these critical sequences when Dante will be asked to get a key stop.
76ERS GC SECONDARY OPTIONS
Similarly to NetsGC, there is an expectation for Dre and OneWildWalnut to perform at a high-level tonight. The rookie point guard may have early playoff jitters, but no one will be surprised if Dre comes out firing from the opening tip. That means like Brooklyn, Philadelphia must also rely on its secondary options to produce when it matters.
Arooks is an interesting player for 76ers GC and has already proven he can be a third option capable of scoring 20 plus points on any given night. The key for NetsGC will be ensuring he significantly eats into the possession pie normally reserved for Dre and OneWildWalnut. Arooks has struggled with efficiency this year, and it’ll be important for NetsGC to force him into tough shots.
UnderRatedGoat and Steez are solid catch and shoot options, and this duo can complicate matters if they knock down shots early.
BONUS: THREE KEYS
A QUICK START – BOTH IN QUARTER ONE AND GAME ONE
It’s important that NetsGC start fast and play with urgency in the opening possession and game. A start similar to last year’s playoff series against Hornets Venom GT will put NetsGC behind the eight ball. While it’s not impossible for the guys to reverse sweep 76ers GC should they drop Game One, the teams have been evenly matched so far this year, and with that coin flip element to the series, NetsGC can drastically improve its chances by striking first.
NetsGC has an elite offense, but when they get out in transition, the team reaches supernova levels. As soon as NetsGC can get into the passing lanes, expect them to look for a sprinting Choc who will likely then let a three fly. The first step will be playing defense, but should Brooklyn get enough stops, it’ll put pressure on Philadelphia to keep up.
EMBRACE THE STAGE
After what has seemed like forever, the NBA 2K League is back on stage for live play. Unlike some of the other teams and players, NetsGC will be making its playoff stage debut. It’ll be fascinating to see how the players deal with this, specifically Choc, Faiz and Dante. Shotz and SlayIsland have been there before, so expect the duo to step up as vocal leaders during stressful moments.