Last weekend we had a pair of matchups and eyes were all on one in particular. Wizards District Gaming going up against the undefeated Toronto Raptors Uprising GC. Not many people predicted the final results. The night beforehand, I spent a few hours watching film and wrote two posts making a case for Washington, yet still couldn’t commit to making a pick one way or the other.
Fast forward to now, Wizards District Gaming is now the likely favorite heading into season three’s final and most important series. And after knocking off a previously-unbeaten team consecutive times– rightfully so. Let’s take a look at just how they pulled it off:
“Defense wins championships” rings true even in 2K. Part of the reason Toronto experienced so much success during their historic run was due to their play on the defensive end. WDG was just better last weekend.
Making Kenny Uncomfortable
It all starts with making the opposing point guard uncomfortable and its a team effort. Washington threw a full switch at KennyGotWork in the pick-and-roll between Dayfri and Awkward, never allowing him to successfully three-hunt. He did go 6-for-11 from deep over the pair of games, but it was clear WDG’s gameplan was to limit Toronto’s perimeter opportunities.
Sometimes this resulted in an easy SickOne bucket or offensive rebound, but overall the plan worked. Toronto took nearly 6 fewer three-pointers this series (12.5 attempts per game) than they averaged during the regular season (19.2 attempts per game).
Awkward getting a little bumpy before halfcourt, leads to an easy transition dunk:
Look at Awkward positioning himself before Kenny even takes a dribble, setting him up for the bump, easy steal, and transition dunk:
Getting Stops in Transition
This was something Washington actually did a decent job of during the TURN series, but only improved on last weekend. WDG was able to save points by getting stops in transition, and often times these stops led to a fastbreak of their own.
ReeseDaGod makes a ton of these unnoticed plays too:
Awkward was the eighth player at his position to be selected, taken 30th overall in February’s draft. He took another step as an individual player during this series. He was a superstar. Dayfri has said he’s never had a teammate watch more film than Awkward, and it showed, as he outplayed the league’s unanimous MVP in the most meaningful game of the season.
This was the biggest shot of game one (hell of a pass too):
Dayfri makes an impact everywhere. He’s flying all over the court trying to make a play game in and game out. His game one stat line was ridiculous:
14 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals, and 6 blocks.
Here’s three of those blocks, including protecting the paint against a pair of layup attempts with under two minutes remaining:
He made important defensive plays late during game one and the second contest was no different. Here, Dayfri grabs the steal, gets clear path fouled and greens both free throws, extending Washington’s lead to 9 with two minutes remaining. Oh, and JBM greened a three-pointer immediately after. Massive play.
JBM Taking Next Step
A lot of what I talked about heading into this matchup was JBM and his potential. While the numbers don’t exactly jump off the screen, JBM executed his responsibilities to near perfection.
Beating Press + Patient Offense
When Washington suffered a sweep during the TURN, JBM turned the ball over at an insane rate. JBM had 8 combined turnovers during the playoff series (2 games) compared to 13 during the TURN (2 games).
During their matchup in the playoffs, JBM did a much better taking care of the ball, evading the famous Raptors press. Washington used a few different looks to push the ball up the court and a lot of it was successful, helping limit turnovers. Being a patient floor general and using Dayfri as a playmaker helped quite a bit.
This is a perfect example of how Washington used Dayfri and others to ease the pressure off of JBM. Awkward to Dayfri to beat the press, reset with JBM, back to Dayfri who does his thing:
Here, they use Dayfri to advance the ball and reset the pick-and-roll three different times before JBM finally drives, kicks, and finds a wide-open Newdini for an easy corner-three:
Washington uses Dayfri to advance the ball again, JBM displays patience, gets to his spot in the post and nails the fade (I don’t care if its 51%) to ice the game. Great poise in a pressure situation from the rookie.
JBM pulls back from the press early (important), evaluates, attacks left side, avoids the Toronto trap attempt, and finds ReeseDaGod, who’s wide open because Kenny gambled and JBM made him pay.
His shot was falling and he was finding other teammates for open looks as well. Getting good shots usually result in less transition opportunity for opposition, which is something Raptors Uprising thrived on this season: turning defensive stops into quick fastbreak points.
Not only were they typically getting great looks from JBM and Dayfri’s patience, but it kept the ball away from a potent Toronto offense. That patient offense was a huge reason behind WDG’s success on both ends of the court.
JBM is so skilled at getting himself open looks. It’s not often you’ll question his shot selection. The problem has always been making the most of those looks. During this series, he did.
He breaks the press here (I don’t care if it’s via pro-8), penetrates, walks back behind a Dayfri screen, and greens his shot. There’s a small window of opportunity there and JBM doesn’t hesitate a bit:
This might have been the biggest shot of JBM’s career to date, and he left no questions about whether or not it would fall, greening the look off the dribble while pushing WDG’s lead to 12 points.
One extra. I know it’s a white release, but again, no hesitation when the window opens up from Dayfri’s screen:
Weathering the Storm
Throughout the season, Raptors Uprising built a reputation for their devastating second-half runs. Teams could hang around for those first 12 minutes, but it’d be a 20-plus point Toronto lead in the blink of an eye come third quarter. It was truly impressive to see this team just flip a switch and become dominant, and it happened time and time again. Last weekend, it just never did.
Wizards District Gaming weathered the storm, answering any and all Toronto runs. There were times it seemed momentum was on the verge of shifting sides, but Washington remained even, never getting too high or too low before the win was official. For a lot of guys playing in the single most important game of their lives (other than Newdini), they responded phenomenally, never losing control of the series once it was theirs to lose.
It Takes Five
We’ve talked a ton about JBM, Dayfri, and Awkward, but those three will be the first to tell you WDG doesn’t make it this far without the play of Dini and Reese. Both players made impact, winning plays in key moments.
ReeseDaGod made just 6 shots combined for the series, but I swear each shot was just a little more important than the one before.
On this one, Dayfri gets the passing lane steal, advances the ball to Reese, who fools Kenny with a fake-pass and proceeds to green a shot. Seems simple, but there’s a lot of sharps that aren’t doing this successfully when the moment comes:
The winningest player in league history just keeps on winning. Crazy concept right? Another player that won’t catch your eye via the box score, Newdini’s impact goes much further.
Here’s three plays where Newdini and Dayfri’s chemistry in the frontcourt shine:
These reasons, among several I probably missed, are why we won’t be seeing Raptors Uprising GC put a bowtie on their perfect championship season this upcoming weekend. Rather, we’ll see Dayfri continue his first postseason run with a band of teammates who welcomed his fiery, competitive style and are being rewarded for buying into it.