The saga has (mostly) come to an end!
Rumors had been swirling since Thursday night about a potential trade between T-Wolves Gaming and Heat Check Gaming for estranged T-Wolves player Brandon “Hood” Caicedo. However, in the middle of the second tournament of the season, one which saw the T-Wolves make an impressive run, neither team wanted to take focus away from the immediate task-at-hand.
The long-awaited announcement finally came late Saturday night, reported by Josiah Cohen of DIMER 2K, and later confirmed by both teams within the following 24 hours. The trade sent “Hood” to his home state of Florida and brought Jordan “JMoneyRep817” Martinez to Minnesota.
Before all of that happened, though, T-Wolves gaming made it to the quarter-finals of THE TURN, the second tournament of the season, played in Las Vegas.
Game #1 – Grizz Gaming
The T-Wolves entered THE TURN unranked and therefore had to compete in one of the first five play-in games to determine the final five seeds of the field of 16 teams. While Grizz Gaming’s record isn’t easy on the eyes, it’s important to note that their only win of the season came last week against a very strong Bucks Gaming team, so they came into THE TURN with momentum on their side.
It would have been very easy to count T-Wolves Gaming out after the first quarter of this game. They found themselves in a 19-13 hole after the first quarter, but it wasn’t so much the score that gave T-Wolves fans pause, the team just looked sluggish and unable to work together as a solid unit, while the Grizz were sinking almost every shot they took.
Fortunately for the T-Wolves, NBA 2K League games are four quarters in length, not one, and momentum quickly changed hands, coming in the form of an impressive 20-5 run that spanned the majority of the second stanza, helping the T-Wolves build a 37-32 lead at halftime.
Despite a strong 8-0 run towards the end of the game, the lead the T-Wolves built proved too much for Grizz Gaming to overcome when Brian “NachoTraynor” Traynor poured in eight straight points down the stretch helping lift T-Wolves Gaming to a 68-63 victory.
Josiah “JoJo” Oetjen was one point away from ensuring every player for the T-Wolves finished with double-figures, while Michael “BearDaBeast” Key took home ‘Player of the Game’ honors with his 14 points and 18 assists, and “NachoTraynor” ended the game with an impressive 22 points.
The team looked so good, in fact, that “Hood” even got in on the action, tweeting “No hood no problem, them boys hooping” after the game. It was an impressive performance by a team that desperately needed a win, but things were certainly not going to get any easier going forward.
Game #2 – Blazer5 Gaming
In a game that appeared to be the exact mirror-opposite of the first game, T-Wolves Gaming jumped out to an impressive 14-4 lead over a Blazer5 Gaming team which many believed were the hottest team in the entire league coming into the tournament.
Blazer5 Gaming responded before the quarter resolved, though, trailing 17-16 at the end of the first thanks to an astounding eight points from point guard and Intel Player of the Month Nidal “Mama Im Dat Man” Nasser.
After the opening quarter, no team led by more than five points for the remainder of the game, with the entire matchup essentially being decided within the last two minutes.
Christopher “TURNUPDEFENSE” Anderson put together one of the more memorable quarters of his two-year career, scoring six points in the final six minutes, culminating in a corner 3 with 45 seconds remaining to put T-Wolves Gaming up five points.
Successfully rotating and taking away easy baskets for most of the night, Blazer5 Gaming’s one lone defensive gaffe came back to haunt them in that position, as they immediately connected on a 3 of their own, only to mysteriously intentionally foul BearDaBeast at the top of the key despite the shot clock showing nine seconds.
While BearDaBeast made just one of his two free throws, neither a takeover-infused Matthew “KinG PeroXide” Hoffmann nor a wide-open Mama Im Dat Man could hit the tying 3-pointer, as Blazer5 Gaming watched two missed opportunities careen away as the seconds dwindled out of the clock.
It was a team-wide effort by T-Wolves Gaming, with all five starters scoring eight or more points in the game, including a 16-point, 11-assist double-double by BearDaBeast, but it was TURNUPDEFENSE who took home ‘Player of the Game’ honors with his career-high 18 points.
Once again T-Wolves Gaming showed us how well they can play when they work together as a team, winning 3 of 4 games since “Hood” stopped showing up, and taking out a team that was 11 seeds higher than them in the tournament, and who many thought would be playing in the finals.
The only remaining question was how far could this team go?
Game #3: Jazz Gaming
Seventeen points. At one point in this game, T-Wolves Gaming led by 17 points. Remember that, because it’s very important later on.
It was a sluggish start for both teams, but in particular for Jazz Gaming, who shot just 3 of 9 and scored eight points in the first quarter. Things got even worse for them in the second, as T-Wolves Gaming wasted no time going on a 9-0 run and followed it up with a 14-2 run minutes later. This brought the lead to its largest of the game, 17 points, and things were certainly looking bleak for Jazz Gaming.
But they wouldn’t go away quietly. After closing the second quarter on a 5-0 run, they opened the third quarter on 7-0 run, bringing their deficit down to just five points, enough for the T-Wolves to clean some things up and get a little more serious.
T-Wolves Gaming opened their lead back up to 10 points, but, an old enemy of the T-Wolves reared its ugly head, an enemy known as turnovers.
Do you want to know what can kill a 17-point lead? How about 19 turnovers? That would probably do the trick, right?
T-Wolves Gaming finished this game with a staggering 19 (!) turnovers, and Jazz Gaming broke through and took their first lead of the game with just under two minutes left in the game.
From there, Jazz Gaming simply had more composure down the stretch, as while T-Wolves Gaming did take back the lead, they turned it over on their last three possessions of the game while Jazz Gaming scored on their final three.
It was an absolutely heartbreaking loss for T-Wolves Gaming, and players struggled to put their collapse into words following the game. It’s obviously all speculation as to what the team could have accomplished in this tournament had the team kept their composure a little bit better, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t meant to be this time.
What this game may have done was shed light on an obviously glaring hole left by firing their head coach Shawn Vilvens, someone whose job is to get the team focused and recalibrate things during instances such as the disastrous second half of this game.
The team has obviously been able to overcome the gap “Hood” left by demanding a trade and disappearing, but a head coaching vacancy that has been only partially patched up with an interim coach might be too much for the young team to figure out.
Leadership is a key part of a successful NBA 2K team, and while basic skill and instincts will get you far, it might not be enough to get you all the way there.
Even though old habits once again brought defeat to the T-Wolves, it was an impressive, and Cinderella-like performance throughout the tournament and one that is sure to get the team excited to continue this still young season, now with a full team and (besides the coaching/GM vacancy) far fewer distractions.