TORONTO, Canada—It’s been a remarkable third campaign for Toronto’s professional NBA 2K League team.
Raptors Uprising GC have set the NBA 2K League record for best start to a season, they’ve won THE TIPOFF Tournament, and the team has yet to drop a series in 2020, entering Thursday’s night’s Week 8 matchup a perfect 18-0 in all competition.
And with four weeks in the regular season still remaining, and $2,500 on the line, Raptors Uprising (11-0) can become the first team in the league to clinch a playoff berth if they can get past Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai (5-6).
The two teams aren’t unfamiliar with competing against each other when the stakes are high, squaring off recently in the semifinals of THE TIPOFF Tournament on June 19. In one of Raptors Uprising’s closest series of the year, the team from the North held off Gen.G (2-1 series) en route to winning their first banner in franchise history and a tidy $70,000 USD.
All three games finished within a seven-point margin, so Thursday night’s game, under the ESPN2 lights, should make for an interesting affair.
— Raptors Uprising GC (@RaptorsGC) June 20, 2020
“Gen.G are a very tough opponent,” said small forward ReeceMode prior to the last time these two teams played. “They are one of those teams that if you blink, you could be down 20. Right now, though, our mindset and what we’ve been telling ourselves is that we’re the only team that could beat us, and that’s how we genuinely feel.”
Earlier this week, Raptors Uprising blew by Heat Check Gaming (2-0 series) to set the NBA 2K League record for most wins to begin a regular season (11). The team made it look easy, as Kenny Got Work, who struggled for parts of the series, still finished averaging 32.5 points, 10 assists, and 3.5 steals over the two games.
Sick One, meanwhile, was also terrific at the centre spot for Toronto last time out, recording a monstrous 21-point, 23-rebound double-double. His play against Miami was just another reason why the big man is considered to be arguably the best centre in the league.
Four Raps with 15+, one with 23 boards.
— Raptors Uprising GC (@RaptorsGC) June 30, 2020
While Raptors Uprising were able to make quick work out of their South Beach counterparts this week, Gen.G weren’t as successful. On Wednesday night, Heat Check Gaming actually swept the Tigers (2-0 series) to pick up just their third win of the season.
The Tigers have struggled to find any sort of consistency in the regular season. Other than their run at THE TIPOFF Tournament, Gen.G have strung together two wins in a row just one time this season. On the bright side, the Tigers have yet to drop three consecutive matches, but in order to avoid that feat in Week 8, they’ll have to overcome the hottest team in the league.
Like Toronto, Gen.G have a well-rounded squad but their team is spearheaded by their point guard: 2020 fifth-overall pick ShiftyKaii. The talented scorer has shown the ability to take over a game, highlighted by a 76-point performance at THE TIPOFF.
With five rookies on their roster, Gen.G is the only NBA 2K League franchise based outside of North America. They do compete out of their Los Angeles HQ, however, boasting a 10-7 record in all competition.
As mentioned, Toronto and Gen.G will be competing for $2,500 as part of the NBA 2K League’s new “Cash Matches.” Raptors Uprising already secured $2,500 for beating Heat Check Gaming last time out and will look to add to their purse Thursday night.
Stat to Watch: -5.4 Turnover Differential – When you have the ball more, you win more, and Raptors Uprising are one of the best teams in the league at taking care of the basketball, coughing up possession more than their opponents on just three occasions this season. Entering July, Toronto has averaged 5.4 fewer turnovers than their opponents have against them, and the team from the North has been especially considerate as of late. In fact, Week 3 against Hawks Talon GC was the last time Raptors Uprising turned the ball over more than their opponents in a game.
Key Matchup to Watch: ReeceMode vs. Gen – Assuming Kenny Got Work and ShiftyKaii are able to get their points, it may end up being the off-ball players who could make the slightest difference in this matchup. Rookie small forwards ReeceMode and Gen are two of the more consistent shooters in the league, with both players not afraid to test their range. While he was somewhat quiet the last time these two teams met, Raptors Uprising fans have seen ReeceMode come alive with some big performances as of late, averaging 17.7 points over his last six appearances. If he’s able to catch fire from deep early on and open up the Gen.G defence, it may end up being a long night for the visiting team.
How to Watch: As always, fans can watch Raptors Uprising play Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai on Thursday (9 p.m. EST) in its entirety via the Twitch Command Center, which is available on the NBA 2K League’s Twitch channel. The match will also televised on ESPN2 and available on Sportsnet and ESPN’s digital platforms, plus streamed on the league’s YouTube channel. Will Toronto be able to clinch a playoff berth for the second time in three seasons? Tune in to find out!