Heat Check Gaming became the first NBA 2K League team ever to advance to the Finals by defeating 76ers GC 2-0 in a tightly contested series early Saturday afternoon.
Let’s consider the strategy behind the sixth seed’s upset of the No. 2 team in the league, the culmination of a post-patch reversal that turned the Heat into one of the most fearsome teams in the league.
For their part, they played terrific defense in both games, holding the 76ers to just 63 and 56 points in games 1 and 2. The 76ers entered the series averaging over 90 points over their hot streak.
How’d they win these close games? By scoring more points, and scoring more points by ensuring that the point they allowed were twos, not threes.
Heat Check really bought in and committed to their defensive game plan: namely, stop the three-pointer. They held the 76ers, the league’s best three-point team over the majority of the season, to just four and two treys in the two games, respectively. Cumulatively, the 76ers shot 6-20 (30%) from beyond the arc.
The Heat committed to stopping ZDS and Newdini’s wraps, principally by having Hotshot essentially abandon his man to help on the wrap from midrange or deter it right from the start of the possession, such as in the above clip.
Look at the Heat force their way through Steez and Feast’s downscreens on an elevator play for Newdini. Hotshot and Jalen hasten to take away the three, willing to leave Majes7ic alone in the paint:
NOW WATCH ME
And it worked out, well, not only because they limited the threes but because the 76ers weren’t able to hammer the Heat in the paint for all four quarters, as they should have going against a slashing stretch five in Majes7ic. They won the rebounding battle, cumulatively, by 11 total rebounds. 5.5 more boards per game is NOT enough, especially when the opposing shot-creating slasher, the end-all be-all of the offense, shoots 47-62 (75.8%) for the series.
What also didn’t help the 76ers was that Radiant was hesitant, not his usual lethal, decisive self. He posted 16 assists in both games, but scored just six points on 3-11 shooting, hitting 0 threes. Not only did the Heat smother him, but in the instances where they didn’t Radiant just… hesitated:
WATCH THIS CLIP
That’s not the way to win a hard-fought playoff series.
At the end of the day, the Heat were able to score more points with their customary reliance on Hotshot at the shot-creating slasher. He scored 97 points in the series by doing a lot of this against a really good defender in Feast:
Hotshot is still lethal at finding slightly open shooters, but the 76ers stayed home enough to limit Hotshot to eight assists in two games. This was old-fashioned downhill scoring, done at a really clutch time with the power of a victorious defense behind him.
Oh, and that number 11 (rebound differential) should stick in your head. The series was decided by 11 points, in favor of the Heat.
Oh, and one other thing. The Heat tallied a fourth-quarter differential of—you guessed it—+11.