Everything seemed to be playing out perfectly before their eyes until it all came crashing down on a few unlucky possessions.
Last weekend, Mavs Gaming flew to New York with one goal on their mind: running the table and winning “The Ticket”. As the third and final mid-season tournament, “The Ticket” had a $150,000 prize pool and an automatic ticket to the playoffs come August.
After under-performing over the weeks prior to the tournament, Dallas came into the tournament as the 14thseed. And they absolutely loved their draw. Instead of drawing the 8-1 Blazers, or even the Sixers or Raptors, Dallas drew the 3-5 Pacers team in the first round.
On top of that, both the two and four seeds of the tournament were bounced out of the tournament before Mavs Gaming took the court for their first matchup.
But Dallas wasn’t focused on the bracket at that moment; they were locked into a massive shake up in the starting lineup that was going to catch everyone off guard. Dimez, considered the best point guard in the league and number one overall pick, was moving to small forward and Dayfri was moving to point guard.
They were going to put the ball in Dimez’s hands at the small forward spot and surround him with four shooters. It was the biggest kept secret until their weekly pre-game scrimmage with the Raptors.
“No one knew until we scrimmaged the Raptors,” Dimez said. At that point, the Raptors team then took it upon themselves to inform the rest of the league. One of the teams was Pacers Gaming, the team Dallas was about to play just an hour later.
It sent the Pacers scrambling and they tried a countering lineup on the fly.
At first, it looked like it worked for the Pacers.
They were trash talking early on and they took a 21-12 lead into the second quarter. Dallas came back in the second quarter and cut the lead to three going into the half.
“It changed our game because it is all Dimez basically scoring now,” Dayfri said.
With the new offensive system, it put Dimez in isolation at the top of the key the majority of the time. With a team like Dallas with other scorers like Dayfri and Seem, it took some time to adjust to the new lineup.
And adjust they did. Mavs Gaming would build on their second quarter momentum and go on a 16-4 run in the second half. They would eventually “upset” the three seed Pacers by a score of 67-61.
Dayfri would finish 15 points and three assists while Seem, Devillon, and Hazza would combine for 18 points. Dimez would finish with 34 points and seven assists.
“Dimez in the five out didn’t play great in the Pacers game, but he showed what he is capable of in the Cavs game,” head coach Jonah Edwards said.
In the last game of the opening round later that night, the 8-1 Blazers (the number one seed in the tournament) would be eliminated. The top four seeds of the tournament failed to advance to the second round. The stars were aligning for Mavs Gaming.
— NBA2KLeague (@NBA2KLeague) July 17, 2018
“I’m watching the bracket and seeing who is losing,” Dimez said. “I was thinking that this is for us.”
But their next opponent, Cavs Legion GC, would have the league’s leading scorer in Hood. The matchup with Dimez became the talk and it didn’t disappoint on the court.
Both teams had their star and both teams ran the same type of offensive system. The biggest difference was that Cleveland had been running that system for basically the entire season.
“The Cavs have been running that lineup since the first day,” Hazza said. “It is still the early stages though and we have a lot to learn from it.”
It was a back-and-forth affair until the final minutes of the fourth quarter when THE play happened. Under a minute to go, Mavs Gaming was up by two with the ball in Dimez’s hands at the top of the key. Standing by himself, Dimez makes the fake pass animation.
The game calls a travel violation.
“The infamous travel violation,” Hazza said. ”I feel like we got cheated in the game.”
The whole team, and even studio, gasped at the play as nothing could be done about it. The game just decided it would happen. The Cavs would get the ball back, score, and eventually win the game by a score of 75-71. But the travel violation was the talk of the team.
“It just killed the momentum and 2K is just such a momentum based game,” Edwards said. “Super unlucky stuff.”
“Literally the most heartbreaking loss ever,” Dimez said. “It just keeps happening to me.”
Of course, Dimez is referring to the week prior when he missed a wide open lay up late in the game that he couldn’t have done anything about. This made two weeks in a row that it felt the game was taking the game out of his control.
Dimez would finish the game with 43 points, eight assists and six rebounds. On the opposite side, Hood would break Dimez’s single game scoring record with 52 points while adding eight rebounds.
The Mavs were eliminated from the tournament and headed home with five regular season games left to earn a spot in the playoffs come August.
Eight teams make the playoffs. With the Knicks winning “The Ticket”, they are automatically in. Considering the Blazers are 8-1, many are counting them as an automatic lock also. This leaves six playoff spots up for grabs.
“We have to get better and make a push at the end,” Dayfri said. “We have the hardest part of our schedule past us.”
Outside of their lone game against the Blazers, the other four opponents left on Dallas’ schedule have a combined record of 15-22. A very winnable schedule for the Mavs.
Up first, is a double-header weekend featuring a 4-6 Grizzlies team and the top team in the league, the 8-1 Blazers.
“I am not losing to the Grizzlies,” a confident and inspired Dimez said heading into the weekend.
On what a win over the Blazers would mean for Mavs Gaming, Edwards admits that it would be huge for the team.
“It would be huge,” Edwards said. “A lot of these guys want to send a message.”
Mavs Gaming will have their chance to send that message on Saturday when they face the Grizzlies at 10:00 a.m. CT and the Blazers at 4:00 p.m. CT. All games can be viewed live on twitch.tv/mavsgg.