The Minnesota Timberwolves are heading to the NBA Finals! Well, kind of…
The Minnesota Timberwolves NBA 2K League affiliate, T-Wolves Gaming, has advanced to the NBA 2K League Finals where they will compete against the Philadelphia 76ers affiliate team, 76ers GC, for the title of 2K League Champions.
The T-Wolves had won 11 straight games to get to where they are, a run that quite literally nobody in the league would have seen coming if you asked them eight weeks ago.
“It’s unbelievable. When you get a group of guys that buys in together, it’s an awesome sports story. It feels good. I love those guys, and it’s awesome to see them having fun,” Josiah “JoJo” Oetjen said after clinching their spot in the Finals with a clean sweep of Warriors Gaming in the semifinals.
“Whenever you’re 3-6, you have a choice. You can either lay down or you can fight. We chose to fight.”
The T-Wolves have looked pretty much unstoppable in the playoffs thus far, completing two sweeps, with only one of the four games feeling even sort of competitive. However, it’s not going to be easy for them to finish off this cinderella story in the making.
This weekend they will have to compete and try to win three games against 76ers GC, arguably the best team in NBA 2K League history. They have a record of 42-16 over their first two seasons, the best in the league over that time, and have competed in three tournament finals, winning two of them.
They are also the only team to have playoff victories in both of their first two seasons and have completed a clean sweep on their road to the Finals as well, winning in impressive fashion in nearly all of them.
Additionally, they have a rock-solid starting lineup, featuring an MVP-nominated player in Ethan “Radiant” White, and offensive machine and total game changer at the point guard position, and his companion Alexander “Steez” Bernstein, one of the best defensive players in the entire league.
Rounding out their lineup are three highly skilled players, including Christopher “BreadwinnerLA” LaFanette, who found himself on both the All-Rookie first team and the All-Defense team this season. Rashann “ZDS” Petty is known as the team’s sharpshooter and absolutely cannot be left alone on the perimeter under any circumstances, as well as Manuel “Newdini33” Newmann II, a highly-respected defender in his own right.
From top to bottom, this team is a monster, and in the same way I said a few weeks ago that the T-Wolves Week 12 matchup against Blazer 5 Gaming would be the real testament of the legitimacy of the team, that game was just an appetizer for what they’re going to up against this weekend.
What To Expect
I would be legitimately shocked if either team is able to pull off another sweep in this series. These teams have just been so incredibly dominant as of late that I can’t see either of them falter that much. Crazier things have obviously happened — i.e. 11 straight, and the entire reason I’m even writing this article right now — but when it comes down to it, I think they split two games and this becomes a best-of-three.
After that, all bets are off. Offensively speaking, the efficiency that 76ers GC is able to run the pick and roll with Radiant and Steez is incredible, and it’s going to be very difficult for the T-Wolves to stop that, let alone worry about everything else. Too much focus on them and ZDS is open in the corner for the three. Not enough focus and Radiant is hanging from the rim with his fifth uncontested dunk of the game.
On the other side, the T-Wolves offense is extremely unpredictable, and they seem to enjoy running plays that function very differently than they initially appear. They run pick and rolls often, but they like to throw in a double screen or wrap around in an attempt to deceive the other team, and it’s going to be up to the 76ers to recognize what’s happening and react quickly.
The T-Wolves are not going to be able to stop Radiant, but if they can manage to slow him down even a little bit, that can increase their chances. On the flip side, if 76ers GC can stuff the passing lanes for Michael “BearDaBeast” Key, the team’s outspoken pass-first point guard, forcing turnovers and capitalizng on the possession game, they’re going to increase their own chances of winning.
Basically, this series is going to come down to how both of these teams are able to perform on the defensive side of the ball, communicate with each other throughout the games, and adapt to the changing schemes and game plans the other side throws at them.
Is it fair to say that I have no idea who is going to win this series? That if for some reason I wasn’t able to watch, and someone texted me right after and said “______ won!” you could fill in either team and I would not even bat an eye?
That’s probably a bit of a cop-out, so I’ll say this: If “BearDaBeast” continues to be the player he has been over the last two months, I think the T-Wolves will win this. If he struggles, even a little bit, I think 76ers GC is simply too complete of a team to beat.
Don’t get me wrong, every single member of T-Wolves Gaming needs to show up ready to play, even Nacho, the team’s supportive sixth man, so them winning or losing doesn’t hinge entirely on BearDaBeast, but if he doesn’t show up you might as well be asking the other four players to climb Mt. Everest.
Regardless of the outcome, it has been an incredibly fun season to watch unfold, and there will be plenty of positive momentum for both teams heading into next season. Of course, a NBA 2K League championship and about $300,000 in prize money would feel pretty good too.