Instead of a commentating crew in last night’s “NBA 2K” League matchup between the 4-5 Atlanta Hawks Talon GC and 4-8 Orlando’s Magic Gaming, the players spoke for themselves.
A technical mishap added audio from the Magic’s team discussions to the live broadcast streamed on Twitch. For a majority of the game, audiences heard the players talk smack and strategy as they controlled their hooping avatars on the virtual court.
The new dimension to viewing offered valuable insight into how athletes and coaches, who benefit from close communication, analyze opposing players and coordinate mid possession and even mid-play. But the trash talk turned ironic when Talon GC pulled out a two-game sweep, its first regular season series win since May 13.
Tuesday was the second 2020 series between the two squads. The first came on June 16 during pool play of THE TIPOFF, which was the league’s first tournament of the season. It ended with each team taking a game, although Talon won game two 71-52.
Still, Orlando’s confidence was audible after it took an 11-point lead in the first quarter. From Magic headsets came taunts against Talon’s season-long leading scorer Michael “Bp” Diaz-Cruz, who put up three points and three assists in the first six minutes.
“Let’s bury people, bro,” called out one Magic member after the team’s hot start.
Slowly, however, Talon chipped the lead back to four by halftime. Diaz-Cruz posted seven in the second quarter to finish with 10 points off 3-of-10 shooting. Guard Mykel “Kel” Wilson and center Levi “Lee” Lamb missed one shot between them to tack on 16 tallies of their own.
Lamb’s offensive rebounding prowess and a late streak by Diaz-Cruz were points of concern for the chattering Orlando squad at half. But despite 90% of the Talon shooter’s points coming from behind the arc, the Magic agreed to forgo a double team on Diaz-Cruz to prevent an open look into the paint.
“This team needs free garbage,” said a Magic competitor at the break. “Bp has not once this season beat a team with his threes. He broke out once all year.”
Although Diaz-Cruz made 3-of-6 3-pointers in the second half — the entirety of his remaining offensive showing — Wilson broke out in his place.
The microphones turned off shortly after Orlando lost its lead two minutes into the third quarter. As game sounds overtook the previous team conversations, Atlanta never looked back. Talon cruised to a 69-55 win.
Sinking 11-of-16 shots from the field, Wilson led with 28 points and 5 assists. Lamb’s scorecard, filled with 14 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and four blocks, was the best of the night and gave Atlanta a surge of momentum heading into the second game.
Talon rode its game one wave for 18 of the final 24 minutes. The team trailed by one after the first quarter only to jump up by five at the half, and then explode in the third and fourth quarters to win 89-53.
The first game proved that with solid offensive help, Diaz-Cruz could maintain a deep-ball mentality throughout a contest. Game two showed just how dangerous he can be.
Sinking 53% of the team’s 32 shots, including 12 3-balls, Diaz-Cruz scored 46. Wilson tacked on 25, and the team improved its two-game shooting percentage to .634, a boost from its .541 mark in a three-game losing effort against 9-1 Jazz Gaming on June 30.
Talon looks to turn a corner entering the second half of the season. Head coach Wesley Acuff seems committed to the one-two offensive punch of Diaz-Cruz hitting from deep and Wilson staying consistent from mid range.
Atlanta has seen mixed success with the look depending on the strength of its opponents and the shooting touch of its backcourt, but Talon sits slightly taller in the middle of the 2K League standings after Tuesday night’s sweep.