TORONTO, Canada—Raptors Uprising GC, NBA 2K League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors, came out on the losing end of a pair of nail biters Friday night against Hawks Talon GC in Week 2 NBA 2K League action.
Deploying a new-look lineup, one that shifted 2020 NBA 2K League Defensive Player of the Year Timelycook away from his natural lock position to the centre spot in place of Type, Raptors Uprising were left frustrated at the end result, despite showing glimpses of promise.
Inbound steal by @Timelycook into the dot & dunk? Now THAT'S Raptors basketball! 😤
— Raptors Uprising GC (@RaptorsGC) June 4, 2021
“I think we saw flashes of what we expect,” said MLSE Esports Director Shane Talbot after the game. “I think defensively, we had a lot of good possessions. If we can play D like we did at times tonight—without the best defensive centre in the league in the lineup—that to me, bodes well for our potential to get him back in the lineup and hit a ceiling that could make us the best defensive team like we did last year.
“Not happy at all about the 0-4 start to the season, but at the same time, we’re not mailing it in yet.”
Games 1 and 2 were eerily similar stories. After falling behind early, Raptors Uprising (4-0) would rally back to put themselves in a position to close the game out in the fourth quarter. However, unfortunately for the team from the North, Hawks Talon (3-3) would catch fire at the right time in both games, and walk away with a pair of six-point victories.
Reigning MVP Kenny Got Work led all Raptors Uprising scorers, combining for 43 points and 21 assists on the night, while Timelycook filled the stat sheet from the centre spot—his first start at the 5 for Raptors Uprising—finishing with a combined 27 points, 24 rebounds, and three steals on 13-of-20 shooting from the floor.
“At times, I saw a lot of what we talk about in film: patience on offence, not rushing it,” said Talbot. “I think we’re a team that it came so naturally and instinctually to us last year that we could really just follow our instincts. And this year, we’re dealing with a lot of change: none of these guys played PS5 in the offseason, different controller, the league build is obviously entirely different this year. And so, I think we need to slow things down and find our rhythm before we can trust our instincts … and I think if we could hit our shots at the clip we need to hit them at, then it’s a blowout.”
With Raptors Uprising getting off to a surprisingly slow start following last season’s historic year, the team will be focused on getting back to the basics and building off what unquestionably is an incredibly strong three-headed core of Kenny Got Work, Timelycook, and Type.
“We just had a great conversation after the game, specifically myself, Kenny, Cook, and Type, just to make sure that we could reset and get everyone on the same page that our team hits its highest potential with all three of them in the lineup—there’s no question about that,” said Talbot.
In addition, the team has instilled a new daily shooting mandate that will see everybody getting practicing and getting shots up more in hopes of re-finding their rhythm that made them the best three-point shooting team in the league a year ago.
“Again, it’s going to take time for these guys to calibrate to a new console, a new controller, a new game, and we need to get reps up, but at the same time, we need to make sure that they’re efficient reps,” continued Talbot. “So when we’re practicing, it’s got to be heavy communication. We can’t just play the game. We have to make sure that we’re paying attention to what we’re doing when we’re playing the game, we’re learning, and we’re getting better.”
The good news for Raptors Uprising is that the season is still very young and there will be ample opportunity for this team to right the ship. They are just four games into a 28-game regular season and half of the teams in the league make the postseason this year. As Talbot points out, if there was ever a year for a team to bounce back after a less than ideal start, it’s this season.
“I have no doubt that the opportunity in front of us is to be the Cinderella story,” said Talbot. “The league has never been structured in a more favourable way to get off to a slow start and then rebound … We’ve seen in the past that it’s never the hottest team in the league out of the gate that wins the championship. And I’m not just saying it, I really do believe we have the talent in this house to figure this out.”
Raptors Uprising will have little-to-no-time to dwell over Friday night’s losses as the team is back in action on Saturday when they take on Type’s former team: Hornets Venom GT (3-1). The Raptors Uprising centre was acquired from Charlotte in the offseason in a blockbuster deal that sent Sick One to Charlotte (before being shipped off the Dallas)—and you can bet that it’s a matchup he has marked on his calendar.
— Raptors Uprising GC (@RaptorsGC) June 5, 2021
“I think you’ll see Type back in the lineup tomorrow,” wrapped up Talbot. “Obviously for him, there’s an added incentive to wanting to win. Nobody on this team needs any more motivation to want to come out of the gate firing tomorrow, and again, we saw those flashes Friday night where we should be able to beat a team like the Hornets. I think as long as we can put Friday and last week behind us and come in Saturday and reset, and again, put our strongest lineup on the court, I’m very confident that we can start the process of turning this season around.”