By Kristian Cuaresma
NetsGC began its 2021 season last night splitting its games against Magic Gaming. Game one went Brooklyn’s way by a score of 67-58, but the team would end up dropping the second match 73-78.
Many people wondered what the NetsGC offense would look like after scoring 101 points to conclude THE TIPOFF tournament, but it was instead the team’s defense that took center stage early. NetsGC would hold Magic Gaming to only four points in the opening quarter, forcing their opponents to play catch up for the remainder of the game.
The unexpected defense ultimately supported a disjointed offense, with NetsGC committing numerous turnovers in the half, particularly on the fast break. However, Choc would take this as his cue, hitting a three to counter a barrage of shots from Orlando’s point guard Reizey. In the second quarter, Choc would respond to a pair of Magic Gaming threes with a vicious dunk for the hoop and the harm before converting the traditional three-point play.
NetsGC rookie Faiz continued to develop in front of our eyes, with the coaching staff relying on him to take the lead after a timeout. He turned those possessions into a made jumper for two points and an assist to Shotz off the pick and roll. The shooting guard also demonstrated he doesn’t need much room to get his shot off after calmly drilling several threes from either hash. Late in the fourth quarter, all five NetsGC players would contribute on consecutive possessions, icing the game and securing the team’s first win of the season.
Outcome: NetsGC wins 67-58
Magic Gaming would flip the script in game two, more than doubling its offensive output in the previous game’s opening quarter in just the first few minutes. With an increased focus on getting out in transition, Orlando would go on a 9-3 run forcing Brooklyn to call an early timeout.
Like in game one, Choc did whatever he could to keep his team within striking distance, hitting several threes in the opening frame. A difference maker for Magic Gaming was FutureClutch, the rookie perimeter defender, who finished with 17 points, a vast improvement over his 0-point performance in game one.
Trailing by one point entering the fourth quarter, NetsGC’s comeback attempt looked like it would fizzle out before it even began when Magic Gaming activated its team takeover. Despite the team being down nine with only a few minutes remaining, NetsGC would make one more run at getting back into the game. The charge was led by Shotz, who finished with 22 points on a perfect 10 of 10 from the field. Dante would also poke the ball loose on two different occasions leading to fast break points the other way.
Unfortunately, a huge Magic Gaming offensive rebound from May which led to an open three, and an illegal screen called on Shotz would kill the dream of a comeback.
Outcome: Magic Gaming wins 78-73
Figuring Out the Right Combination
NetsGC’s decision to go back to their original starting five was met with genuine curiosity on social media. The overall reaction was not surprising as the team’s lineup featuring Legit went 2-0 in THE TIPOFF, including a game in which NetsGC scored 101 points.
However, there is something to be said about not giving up on any particular player or lineup this early in the season. The coaching staff and team believe in each other, and the organization has always believed it put together the exact team it wanted this offseason. While there is plenty of work to be done, Dante came up with two big defensive plays late in game two to give NetsGC a chance to win.
SlayIsland’s Versatility is an Unexpected Weapon
Despite being the fourth last pick in the draft this past offseason, SlayIsland has quickly proven why he still belongs in the league. Having now played small forward and power forward this season, the former season two first rounder has transformed himself into a “Swiss Army knife,” type of player. He has also been asked to play defense out of the corner and as the big on pick and roll coverage.
If he’s able to maintain his shooting numbers from THE TIPOFF, he could quickly put himself in the top tier of role players.
Shotz Doesn’t Miss a Shot
The NetsGC center put on a clinic on the offensive end, averaging 21 points on a perfect 20 of 20 from the field. He was complimentary of his teammates during the RESPAWN Products Post Game Walk-Off, but even he recognizes how important of a cog he is in the NetsGC machine. It’ll be exciting to see what he unlocks next for this team on both sides of the court.