TORONTO — Raptors Uprising GC continues its assault on the NBA 2K League record book this week.
Fresh off winning The Turn, a US$260,000 in-season tournament, the Raptors turn their attention to the final three games of the esports circuit's regular season.
Toronto (13-0) can erase the league mark of 14 consecutive wins when it play Kings Guard Gaming (9-4 prior to play Tuesday) on Wednesday and Lakers Gaming (2-11) on Thursday. The Raptors' regular-season finale is Aug. 7 against Cavs Legion GC (4-6).
While records are nice, the Raptors have their eye on a different prize.
"We certainly have set a goal to win those games and try to have a perfect season. That'd be a major accomplishment," said Shane Talbot, esports manager at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment.
"But maybe more importantly it's just making sure that we're ready for the post-season. Because as we've seen the last two years, it was not the regular-season favourites that took home the championships. And we want to make sure that we break that trend."
In 2018, Blazer5 Gaming topped the season standings at 12-2 but exited in the playoff quarterfinals, beaten by eventual champion Knicks Gaming. The Portland team won 14 straight en route to topping the 2019 season standings, only to lose in the quarterfinals again — this time to Warriors Gaming Squad, the lowest-seeded team in the playoffs.
T-Wolves Gaming also got hot at the right time, winning the 2019 championship after a 3-6 start to the season.
The Raptors, who missed the eight-team playoffs last year, have already made league history on multiple fronts.
— They are the first team to win the first two tournaments of the season, The Tipoff and The Turn.
— Star point guard Kenneth (Kenny Got Work) Hailey is the first multi-tournament MVP in league history and the first to win three player of the week awards in one season.
— They have set the league's single-game scoring record twice (June 12 in 109-51 win over Celtics Crossover Gaming and July 16 in 112-62 victory over Pacers Gaming).
— They have set the league record for most consecutive wins (13) to open a season. The previous record was 10 by Mavs Gaming last year.
— They are the earliest in league history to qualify for the post-season, after a July 2 series win over Gen.G Tigers.
Including tournament play, Toronto is 22-0 this season.
Regular-season games were one-off contests in the league's first two seasons before switching to best of-three series in remote play this year.
After a first-round bye in The Turn, the top-seeded Raptors swept Gen.G Tigers of Shanghai (91-69 and 81-52) before downing T-Wolves Gaming in the quarterfinals (77-50 and 62-58).
Toronto dispatched Kings Guard Gaming, runner-up in The Tipoff, in the semifinals (72-60, 58-73 and 63-56) before sweeping Wizards District Gaming in Saturday's final (56-51 and 54-51) to pick up the $117,000 winner's cheque.
Hailey averaged 28.8 points and 8.6 assists through nine tournament games.
The Raptors collected $70,000 for their first tournament win after disposing of Blazer5 Gaming, Lakers Gaming, Bucks Gaming, Gen.G and Kings Guard Gaming, winning 10 of 11 games along the way.
The final tournament of the season, The Ticket, is slated for Aug. 13-15 for the 14 teams out of playoff position. The winner will become the 10th and last participant in the Aug. 19-29 post-season.
The playoffs have a total prize pool of $900,000, with the champions winning $420,000.
That's significant money to players on six-month agreement worth $33,000 to $37,500. They also get free housing, medical insurance and a retirement plan.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press