Finally! After 16 weeks, 3 tournaments, 6 playoff series and endless shouting of the word “GREEN!”, the Season 2 Finals are here. This grueling schedule saw the top 2 seeds get swept out of the first round of the playoffs and left us with two teams that trace back to the early days of competition. A true David vs. Goliath.
On one side you have Goliath, 76ersGC. The team with the most regular season, tournament and playoff wins in 2K League history. The team with the Coach of the Year, an MVP Finalist, a member of both the All-Rookie team and All-Defensive team. So far through 2 seasons, they are the best team in the league and plan to make that very clear with the Finals win that alluded them last season.
On the other side is David, T-Wolves Gaming. An expansion team who spent most of the year at the bottom of the league dealing with a trade request, a coaching change, and, at their worst, a 3-6 record. On the back of a man who didn’t even make the All-Rookie team, they have risen to the very top of the league in one of the most miraculous season-long comebacks that esports has ever seen.
We’ll break down every angle of this match-up from our great coaching battle all the way down to position vs. position match-ups. If you haven’t checked out our interviews with Feast and 76ers GC coach Jeff Terrell, you can find them here and here. Let’s get into it.
Coach: Jeff Terrell (Coach of the Year)
Reg. Season record: 11-5
– 76ers GC is a battle-tested group who have been to 2 tournament finals, winning 1 this year.
– They are led by one of the best players in the world in 2-time TIPOFF MVP Radiant, who was deservingly named an MVP finalist after averaging 20 ppg & 11.5 apg this season.
– Defensively, they have been one of the most consistent teams in the league. Led by All-Defensive member Breadwinner LA and their emotional leader Steez, they ranked top 5 in Opp. PPG and led the league in Opp. 3P% at a stunningly low 42%.
– They led the league in made 3-pointers this year, assisted by their breakout star, ZDS. He made huge strides this year by raising by his 3P% and PPG from last year, including setting the season-high for scoring 2 separate times.
– They have as consistent a starting 5 as any team in the league. All 5 have played every game together this season, except for 1 game at the end of the season where Breadwinner LA sat out to showcase their 6th man oCassius. In typical 76ersGC fashion, he dropped 36 points.
– Saying Jeff Terrell is the best coach in the league isn’t a hot take anymore. A Finals win makes it a fact. A loss probably does too.
Coach: Justin Butler
Reg. Season record: 10-6
– There isn’t a hotter team in the entire league than T’Wolves Gaming. 11-game win streak? Check. 2 impressive sweeps? Check. Hottest player in the league? Check. This isn’t the team we saw at 3-6 back in May.
– BearDaBeast has been the hottest player in the league since July began. He’s shooting 62.8% from the floor in that span and he can dish it as well as he can bank it. Averaging 12 apg over that stretch would rank 2nd in the entire league and cements him as one of the elite point guards in the league
– The only thing more impressive than TURNUPDEFENSE averaging a full 4 points per game higher than his season average is what he has done to point guards this postseason. Holding 2 very good point guards in BP and CB13 to 9.5 ppg is as impressive as any individual player stat we will list.
– During this 11-game win streak, the T-Wolves have had the best defense in the entire league, bar none. Holding teams to 52 ppg while shooting under 50% is the best turnaround for any single unit in the entire league.
– Justin Butler has led this turnaround with fantastic game-planning and even better in-game adjustments. His structure against Warriors Gaming Squad was one of the big reasons why they were held under 50 ppg, which no other team was even able to come close to defensively.
Radiant: 23.75 ppg, 12.75 apg, 60.7% FG, 64% 3P
BearDaBeast: 19.75 ppg, 12 apg, 64.7% FG, 64.3% 3P
Summary: Radiant squaring off with BearDaBeast is not just a battle between two of the best point guards in the league. It’s a battle of the two best players so far in the playoffs, but the best part of their matchup is their conflicting styles of play. Radiant is all about the 3 ball. He’s attempted 11 more 3’s than Bear so far this postseason and is hitting them at a 64% clip. Bear likes to live in the midrange a little bit more, but is much more selective and efficient with his shot taking. He’s shooting 59% from inside the 3-point line and has posted an extremely impressive 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Keys to win: Bear has shown an extremely high basketball IQ during T-Wolves Gaming run and it has led to some outstanding decision making. He truly is a pass-first point guard and nobody in the league uses the weapons around them better than he does. The 76ers know he is coming and knows he likes to pass. Expect them to key in on those passing lanes and force Bear into some uncomfortable situations. If Bear can keep his teammates involved without ramping up the turnovers, the T-Wolves may be hoisting that trophy at the end. For Radiant, things are a little different. TurnUpDefense has been phenomenal all playoffs long as has the T-Wolves entire defense. His ability to create open shots for his teammates is paramount for them to win. If he has to score 12 points but ends up with 18 assists, so be it. Picking his spots to take over the game will be his biggest challenge he has faced so far this year, one that a two-time TIPOFF MVP should be able to handle just fine.
TurnUpDefense: 13.8 ppg, 57.9% FG, 43.7% 3P
Newdini: 12 ppg, 66.7% FG, 61.5% 3P
The lockdown defender at the 2 has been an integral part of every single 2K League team this year. It has been a make or break factor in multiple games and has been so far in the playoffs. TurnUpDefense has been the best on-ball defender since about the middle of July. He doesn’t rack up steals or force a ton of turnovers, but he does an excellent job of forcing you off your spots and making you uncomfortable. Along with that, his scoring has seen a nice uptick. Bear has set him up nicely for easy baseline scores and corner 3s. Hitting those shots can’t be understated and was a big reason why they were able to sweep so convincingly. Newdini, Newdini, Newdini. One of the most underrated role players in the entire league, he has been one of Jeff Terrell’s most trusted soldiers the past 2 years and he has rewarded his coach’s confidence every time. He never forces shots and doesn’t try to play above his pay grade too often. Bear is a difficult match-up for anyone, but Newdini should be able to force him into some turnovers and get him out of rhythm. If he continues knocking down 3s at the rate he was against CLTX Gaming, this series might not last very long.
JMoneyRep817: 11.75 ppg, 50% FG, 38.9% 3P
ZDS: 16.25 ppg, 56.5% FG, 43.5% 3P
It’s been a very weird playoffs for both of these wings. After helping spark the 11-game win streak, JMoney has come down to earth. He’s only hit 7 total 3s in 4 games and is a full 8 points under his season-average for scoring. He was lucky that JoJo and Feast were able to pick up the slack offensively, but we know what JMoney is capable of. At his best, he is an elite 3-point shooter and one of the best catch and shoot players in the entire league. He is the perfect Robin to Bear’s Batman and it’s really only a matter of time before he gets going. ZDS, on the other hand, has had the playoffs you would expect. All of his playoff averages are right around his end of year stats, but both are a bit misleading. During the season, ZDS was a rollercoaster. Here are the point totals for his last 5 games. 7, 16, 6, 11, 52. He’s the definition of a streaky shooter and it carried over to the playoffs, His scoring totals so far in order are 8, 10, 21, 26. He had a bad time all year long against Pacers Gaming, but he has all the talent in the world as a wing scorer. This is his chance to step up and take his place among the best wings in the league. Defensively for both, sell out to defend the 3. Neither team is going to win by scoring in the paint. Whoever defends the 3 and shoots the 3 the best is going to win the Finals and you can put that in the bank.
FEAST: 5.75 ppg, 4.75 rpg, 2.75 bpg, 64.3% FG, 83.3% 3P
BreadwinnerLA: 5.25 ppg, 3.75 rpg, 4 spg, 64.3%, 28.5% 3P
Yea, baby. As a true believer in defense wins championships (along with hitting your 3s!), this is a mouth-watering match-up. BreadwinnerLA is fresh off an All-Defense level season and FEAST backed up his reputation as one of the smartest pick and roll defenders the league has to offer. While they won’t be defending each other, they are both very good at forcing missed shots and making sure the paint stays clear. FEAST has been a stellar shot blocker all year long across 2 different positions and has 11 total in just 4 playoff games. Breadwinner has made his name as one of the stickiest defenders in the league and also as one of its’ best thieves. 16 steals in 4 games is some real Doris Payne-level thievery. Offensively…not much to speak of. FEAST was a great offensive Center, but his move to PF has sapped much of that production. For Breadwinner, he really needs to start hitting big shots. Too many times he will get the ball with a chance to really push their momentum to another level and he’ll brick a 3. He’s going to get 1 or 2 of those in this series, hopefully, he’s ready for them.
JoJo: 13.75 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 78.6% FG, 50% 3P
Steez: 11.5 ppg, 9 rpg, 84.6% FG, N/A 3P
In a way only basketball can really do, this is truly old school vs. new school. On one hand, you have Steez. He is your typical rim running, high energy, offensive rebounding extraordinaire who is the tempo setter for everything 76ers GC does. His best skill is his ability to extend possessions and create more chances for his teammates. Whether it’s slowing down the tempo when the other team has momentum or getting a huge offensive board in the biggest moments, Steez has been there through everything. He’s the on-court coach for 76ers GC and is constantly barking out defensive assignments and offensive adjustments. Along with his on-court presence, he is also one of the best trash talkers in the league and is going to let you hear it when they get on a huge run. On the other hand, you have JoJo. The high-flying, smack-talking. pick and pop master that loves to get under his opponent’s skin. His ability to knock down shots from anywhere on the floor is a huge reason why T-Wolves Gaming are so lethal. JoJo has thrived in the playoffs so far. He has seen a jump in every single major statistic in the playoffs and has done a fantastic job of winning the mental game. He has to be careful with Steez, who is a bit more of a bulldog than other Centers in the league. If you prod him enough, he’s going to bite back. Lighting a fire under him is not something you should look to do.
Coach Terrell, originally from Nashville, has been with the 76ers GC organization since the inaugural season of the NBA 2K League. He’s a former college point guard at Roane State and Murray State, and a former high school basketball coach.
Jeff’s introduction to 2K happened in 2015 after a car accident left him injured and unable to exercise for eight months. He quickly evolved into “TheWhiteKite23″ and dominated the Pro-Am scene.
Now with 76ers GC, he’s brought a wealth of 2K and IRL basketball experience to his coaching responsibilities which has positioned the team well over the first two seasons of the League. Look no further than 76ers GC’s 42 total wins– the most in League history.
T-Wolves Gaming faced an up-hill battle after a 1-3 start to Season 2. When they decided to move on from their initial GM and Head Coach Shawn Vilvens, Butler was called upon to as interim coach while the organization searched for a long-term replacement.
When should the interim tag be removed from his title? Justin has simply been masterful during the past 12+ weeks of the season (11-straight wins and a playoffs AND Finals berth can’t be dismissed as good luck).
Justin Butler is the Timberwolves/Lynx Vice President of Technology, but can now add coach of a Finals-bound team to his resume. He was a key cog in the inaugural T-Wolves draft this season and brings experience with data and analytics to the table.
Inside the Numbers
The total number of wins for the 76ers GC organization. That’s the most in League history.
Total regular season wins for 76ers GC, the second-most in League history behind Blazer5 Gaming.
76ers GC’s strong playoff record across two seasons.
T-Wolves Gaming’s current regular season and playoffs winning streak. That’s the second-best winning streak of all-time behind Blazer 5’s 14-game winning streak this season.
BearDaBeast’s APG average. While he scores a ton, he is also an assists king. The average is good for 5th in the League.
Incredibly, this is T-Wolves Gaming’s first year in the League. They’re the first expansion team to have made it to the NBA 2K League postseason, and you can add the Finals to that list as well.
“Whenever you’re 3-6, you have a choice. You can either lay down or you can fight, and we chose to fight.”
-JoJo on T-Wolves Gaming’s decision to battle back from a rough first half of the season.
“Everybody can talk analytics, but we got a whole lotta heart. We actually value the word TEAM.”
-BearDaBeast on T-Wolves Gaming’s team-first mentality.
“Having to go through last year, being in this same position and losing, was the toughest thing ever. I didn’t want to go through that again.”
-Radiant on 76ers GC’s goal of redemption after losing in the playoffs during Season 1.
“The x-factor is playing as a fist. When all five are locked in, and playing as one, we are an extremely tough team to beat. So instead of naming one x-factor, I would go with all five of guys, playing together and trusting in what got us here.”
-Jeff Terrell on the key to winning the Finals.