By Kristian Cuaresma
It has been nearly a month since NetsGC last played a regular season game.
The team returns to action this week against a pair of Eastern Conference opponents, first against Knicks Gaming tonight followed by a matchup with Heat Check Gaming tomorrow. NetsGC is coming off a top eight tournament finish last week in THE TURN, and while it was the best placing thus far in franchise history, there is an eagerness to return back to familiar player archetypes. Using the league builds of their choice, the team is undefeated in the last four regular season games.
With a record of 11-7, NetsGC is currently fourth in the Eastern Conference. With the top five teams in each conference qualifying for a postseason berth, this week’s matchups against these particular opponents will likely have significant implications in what is certain to be an entertaining playoff race.
Knicks Gaming Preview
NetsGC and Knicks Gaming share more than the city of New York. Both teams are currently on a four-game regular season winning streak and were only recently stifled in THE TURN by the champion Hornets Venom GT. This will be the sequel to season four’s iteration of the ‘Battle of New York’, with the teams fighting to a split back on June 4. NetsGC had won Game One 90-83 but dropped Game Two 80-82.
Brooklyn had strong fourth quarters in both games – finishing with a combined +21 – but its late game dominance was not enough to complete the comeback in Game Two. NetsGC had played well enough in spurts to get its first sweep of the season, with the dynamic duo of Choc and Shotz averaging a combined 55.5 points, 16.0 rebounds, 17.0 assists, 1.5 steals while shooting 64 percent against Knicks Gaming.
NetsGC’s role players also contributed throughout the evening with Faiz and SlayIsland combining for 21 points in Game One. Faiz would follow up that performance with 18 in Game Two to go with Dante’s nine points. To avoid a split – or getting swept – NetsGC will need to shore up its defense. Knicks Gaming’s 30-point second quarter in game one put NetsGC in a tricky spot. New York’s encore performance in the following contest (26-15 second quarter) ultimately led to Brooklyn’s demise.
Player to Watch
Duck – 27.2 points, 9.5 assists, 0.9 steals, 62% FG, 48% 3P
In just the last week alone, NetsGC had the unenviable task of chasing around the talented backcourts of Magic Gaming and Hornets Venom GT. It does not get any easier tonight with the tandem of Duck and OriginalMalik.
Focusing on the second-year pro, Duck is the key to unlocking Knicks Gaming’s offensive potential. At times, the 2020 No. 2 overall pick will occasionally defer to OriginalMalik. While this approach certainly caters to this season’s meta and has produced an above .500 record, an unhinged Duck on the offensive end makes Knicks Gaming nearly impossible to stop.
In New York’s last six games – five of which it has won – Duck is averaging 35.3 points and 8.3 assists. Earlier this week, Duck went supernova against Hawks Talon GC and averaged 42.0 points and 9.0 assists.
Heat Check Gaming Preview
Heat Check Gaming has turned its season around despite having dropped the last three games. The first weeks of the season the team was littered with turmoil both on and off the sticks, however, with a change to the lineup, Miami found the spark it was looking for and is now nipping on the heels of NetsGC for one of the playoff spots within reach.
While we will get to the aforementioned roster adjustment later in this article, let’s first pay respect to league veteran and Heat Check Gaming-lifer Hotshot. Since the NBA 2K League’s inaugural campaign, Hotshot has led Miami’s offense with his two-way play. It isn’t any different in season four, with Hotshot 29th in the league in scoring and in the top 20 for rebounding, steals, and blocks.
After being acquired in a shocking offseason trade, it took awhile for Sav to acclimate to life in Miami. Since that adjustment period, Sav has resumed his role as one of the best point guards in the league. He has nearly identical numbers to Choc and poses similar challenges. It’ll be exciting for fans of both teams to watch a potential master class in point guard mechanics by these two players.
Player to Watch
Killeyy – 17.4 points, 2.0 assists, 1.6 steals, 57% FG, 54% 3P
Miami has turned up the heat since acquiring Killeyy from free agency, going 7-3 after inserting him into the lineup as the starting shooting guard. His versatility is best on display when he is reliably knocking down shots as a sharp on one possession and then creating his own space off the dribble during the next trip up. Killeyy’s presence on the court has also had an undeniable impact on Sav. Whether Killeyy is acting as Sav’s personal pressure release valve or opening up space and passing lanes, his gravity unlocks another part of Heat Check Gaming’s offensive playbook. In the final minute against Celtics Crossover Gaming last night, Killeyy was tasked with making monumental decisions, indicating he’s comfortable with the ball when the game is on the line.
This will not be the first time NetsGC has had to deal with Killeyy, with the shooting guard last causing chaos back in THE TIPOFF tournament. While playing for Pistons GT, he averaged 18.0 points and 4.0 assists in a sweep of NetsGC. Despite him wearing a different jersey this time around, Killeyy’s production will likely be an x-factor in the outcome of this two-game set.