By Kristian Cuaresma
It was meant to happen this way.
Despite already being one week into Season Five of the NBA 2K League, there are still seven undefeated teams -three in the Eastern Conference.
Tonight, two of those Eastern Conference teams will put their records to the test when NetsGC and Raptors Uprising take the virtual court at 7 p.m. ET.
Neither franchise was expected to get off to this type of start. Analysts pointed towards Brooklyn having to replace an MVP candidate with draft picks no one wanted. Meanwhile, Toronto was coming off a disappointing season and chose to reload by adding two dynamic but polarizing players in FantaSZN and Big Saint. Now as both teams currently sit at the top of Group D, tonight’s bout will likely have significant implications on who wins the division headed into bracket play.
Raptors Uprising GC Expected Lineup
SG: Kenny Got Work
SF: Big Saint
Players to Watch
Big Saint – 17.0 points, 2.0 assists, 4.3 steals, 68% FG, 78% 3P
A first place Western Conference finish in the regular season was not enough for Big Saint to stick around with T-Wolves Gaming. However, the uncertainty surrounding his career was short-lived after being drafted by Raptors Uprising. His presence has revitalized a defense north of the border that wreaked havoc back in Season Three. Big Saint is currently amongst the leaders in steals, highlighted by his seven takeaways against Grizz Gaming in his team’s season opener. In addition to his stifling defense, he’s also shooting with incredible efficiency behind the arc.
Dimez – 16.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 2.0 blocks
Dimez has been one of the most prominent faces in the NBA 2K League since he was taken with the number one pick in the inaugural draft. Like the league, he celebrated his fifth anniversary by undergoing a complete makeover. No longer dissecting offenses as a point guard, the veteran made the switch to center. The result has been unsurprising, with the big man stuffing stat sheets on a regular basis. His prior experience at point guard has paid dividends, evident by his ability to manipulate opposing defenses.
Bridge to Victory
Toronto plays with a chaotic pace in hopes that it will force its opponent into as many mistakes as possible. As enticing and entertaining as it may seem, it’s important Brooklyn doesn’t get too caught up in trying to outsprint its opponent to the finish line. During their three-game winning streak, Raptors Uprising have typically just needed one quarter to create separation. Against Grizz Gaming, it was a 13-4 second quarter and against Hornets Venom GT, it was a 25-10 third quarter. If NetsGC can lock in during all four quarters and find victories in the games within the game, they’ll put themselves in a position to win.
Another key factor will be containing the interesting backcourt of FantaSZN and Kenny Got Work. Like NetsGC, Raptors Uprising have a guard pairing that consists of an unpredictable rookie and an experienced bucket getter. Brooklyn’s Tate and Doc will either need to match their opponent’s scoring output or the defensive trio of Streetz, Steez, and Shotz will need to figure out how to contain Raptors Uprising’s offense, a feat no other team has managed to do up to this point.