By Kristian Cuaresma
After a fun best-of-three matchup, NetsGC made history by securing its first playoff series win after defeating 76ers GC 2-1.
For those who have been following along, last night’s back-and-forth series shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The two teams have played each other this year on three different occasions for a total of seven games, with NetsGC emerging victorious in four of those contests.
Up next is another familiar foe ready to co-author its own trilogy with NetsGC – Hornets Venom GT.
Hornets Venom GT was responsible for knocking NetsGC out of the postseason last year with a 2-0 sweep in the opening round. Despite the lopsided series outcome, Brooklyn kept it competitive, dropping the opening game by five points and Game Two by a mere two points.
Both Brooklyn and Charlotte look dramatically different in tonight’s installment, with only Choc and Trap returning for their respective teams. Here’s what both averaged in that Season Three series:
Choc – 34.0 points, 11.0 assists, 5.5 turnovers, 58.1% field goal, 50% three point
Trap – 2.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.5 steals, 25.0 % field goal, 0.0% three point
A straight-line comparison between the two isn’t fair due to the positions they play but expect both players to bring something different to the table tonight. Choc has a variety of weapons in his arsenal this season, which has resulted in one of the best offenses in the league – a dramatic shift from the poor offensive numbers that plagued Brooklyn in Season Three. Last night, Choc averaged 25.3 points and 15.7 assists, further highlighting his team’s multi-pronged attack.
As for Trap, he struggled at times in last year’s series, but still proved to be a constant annoyance. Dante’s performance last night is evidence that all it takes are a few key stops, especially in a tight matchup. This season, Trap has been elite on the defensive end and finished the season second in steals (2.0).
NEW OLD WOUNDS
The sequel to this matchup occurred just over a month ago in the league’s annual midseason tournament – THE TURN. It’s always difficult to dissect gameplay from this tournament due to the unique element of archetype bans, but there are certain themes that fans can expect to carry over.
Solving the Sherm and rigby Equation
Last year, NetsGC had to deal with the Hornets Venom GT backcourt of Snubby and Expose. This season, a souped-up version of that duo has manifested itself in the one-two punch of Sherm and rigby. The explosive guards combined for an average of 48.5 points against Brooklyn in THE TURN, accounting for nearly 60 percent of Charlotte’s offensive output.
Crown claiming his throne
It can be funny how things play out over the course of an NBA 2K League season. At one point, fans weren’t sure if Crown would ever see the court again this year. Fast forward to present day, and there’s no doubt about the impact Crown has had for Hornets Venom GT, especially on defense. Crown began his comeback in THE TURN and hasn’t looked back since. His elite defense will put pressure on Choc and Shotz to make the correct reads, while also requiring SlayIsland and Dante to make him pay on rotations. His 6.8 rebounds per game is also elite amongst his power forward peers.
Taking Care of the Ball
Hornets Venom GT boasts a pesky defense and an efficient offense. To mitigate this, it’s critical that NetsGC take care of the ball and force its opponent into mistakes. Below illustrates how much Charlotte leans on winning this particular aspect of the game.
When Hornets Venom GT:
Wins Turnover Battle: 16-1
Loses Turnover Battle: 3-8
Finishes with 10+ turnovers: 1-4
Choc vs. the Other Huard
In Game Two against 76ers GC last night, NetsGC couldn’t overcome Arooks exploding for 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the perimeter. Fortunately, numbers normally don’t lie and Arooks’ regression to the mean came in the form of 31 percent shooting in Games One and Three.
With Hornets Venom GT, NetsGC likely won’t expect either Sherm or rigby to have a poor game without scheming for it. That means Choc will be asked to further cement his case for MVP by slowing down whichever guard isn’t being shadowed by NetsGC lock Dante. We’ve seen Choc play great defense before, especially in the latter half of the season, but to expect him to carry a heavy workload on both sides of the court is a big ask. If Choc can influence both ends, it’ll go a long way in sending NetsGC onto the next round.