Raptors Uprising’s 2021 season comes to an end after a heartbreaker at THE TICKET

TORONTO, Canada—Raptors Uprising GC’s NBA 2K League season came to an end Thursday evening as the team from the North bowed out in THE TICKET Tournament Powered by AT&T in heartbreaking fashion, losing to Heat Check Gaming (2-1 series).

Raptors Uprising carried a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter of the third and decisive game, but Miami caught fire at the right time down the stretch, mounting a memorable come back to knock off Toronto in the opening round of the competition.

“It’s tough,” said MLSE Director of Esports Shane Talbot after the game. “It’s a few moments of silence initially and then I just told (the team) that I was proud of them. They fought. From the players to the organization, we went down swinging. We could’ve mailed it in. Everybody counted us out, and we could’ve given up, but credit to everyone.”

After winning four out of six games — all against playoff teams — Raptors Uprising were confident heading into this tournament, and it showed early on. The team took it to Heat Check Gaming in opening matchup of the best-of-three series, outscoring their opponents 25-6 in the third quarter to eventually take Game 1 by a score of 78-63.

Dimez, who made his Raptors Uprising debut just three weeks ago after being acquired from Mavs Gaming, scored 21 points and added 12 assists, while reigning MVP Kenny Got Work added 23 points and six assists as the duo set the tempo for Toronto right from the jump.

However, in Game 2, the team ran into some adversity. With their backs against the wall, Heat Check Gaming refused to go down without a fight, quickly opening up a 17-3 lead in the first quarter of Game 1 and would carry a 23-13 lead into the second. That’s when Raptors Uprising put forth one of the more memorable runs in recent memory, as the team would begin the second quarter on a 12-0 run to take a slim two-point lead.

Facing elimination, Miami would recover by the end of the half, maintaining a four-point edge as this game would come down to a crucial fourth quarter. And in the fourth, it would be Heat Check Gaming coming out firing, starting the final frame of Game 2 on a 7-2 run to extend their lead to seven points. Canadian Sav’s 27 points and 17 assists would carry Miami the rest of the way as they would take the second game of the night 80-68 and force a winner-take-all Game 3.

“I wasn’t even feeling too stressed to be honest after that first quarter (of Game 2),” said Talbot. “I thought we’d bring it back, and we almost did. It could’ve been a sweep.”

Justifying Talbot’s unwavering belief, Raptors Uprising started Game 3 on fire, outscoring Heat Check Gaming 22-14 in the opening quarter. But in a game full of runs, Miami would claw their way back, bringing it back to within one at the end of the opening half, setting up a thrilling final two quarters.

Just like in the first quarter, Toronto would find a way to bounce back and create some separation, large in part thanks to Dimez, who scored 11 of his game-high 30 points in the third quarter to help his team extend their lead to nine heading into the final frame.

Going on a run of their own, however, Miami would quickly erase that deficit midway through the fourth quarter as Killeyy knocked down a pivotal three to give their team a one-point lead. With both teams’ seasons on the line, it would be Heat Check Gaming coming up clutch in the end, as the NBA 2K League team put forth one final push at the right time to get them over the finish line, opening up a two-possession lead with less than a minute on the clock.

And although a corner three from Dimez brought Toronto back to within one with about 27 seconds remaining, Miami would run the clock down before kicking it out to Killeyy for a dagger three to put this matchup — and Raptors Uprising’s season — to bed.

“I know that this team has a ton of potential. We can all see that,” said Talbot. “It’s been a totally different situation since Dimez got here, and I wish we had the opportunity to see this team play an entire season together because I think it would’ve been entirely different. Right now, I’m a little shell-shocked. We’ll have to go back, probably look at film to see what exactly happened there.”

After a history-making 16-0 campaign a year ago, Raptors Uprising (9-19) finished the regular season under .500 for the first time in franchise history. That being said, with the late-season addition of Dimez alongside a roster already filled with individual talent, the future looks bright in the 6ix.

“I would say that this season, if I were to sum it up, was a punch in the mouth. It was not what we expected,” said Talbot. “So, I’m devastated, however, as I look to the future now, based on our record and not being in the playoffs, we’re going to have a top pick for the first time in our history.

“We’ve never drafted higher than 11th. … With the amount of talent that we already have on our team, it’s hard for me to not anticipate that we’ll be coming into next season as a real contender.”

With the 2021 NBA 2K League season in the books, be sure to keep it locked to Raptors Uprising across all social media platforms, as the team will be releasing some exclusive content over the next few weeks.

And rest assured: the North will rise again.