THE TIPOFF Preview: Warriors Gaming Squad Looks to Capture Elusive THE TIPOFF Banner

Warriors Gaming Squad knows a thing or two about tournaments.

In 2019, the team became the first in league history to capture two banners—THE TURN and THE TICKET tournaments—in one season. THE TIPOFF, however, eluded the team, and has in fact eluded every team except 76ers GC, which won the season opener in back-to-back seasons. In 2018, ironically, the TIPOFF was WGS’ best tournament: the team went 2-1 and made the quarterfinals in their first-ever league action. This season, beginning at 3 p.m. PST on June 16, WGS is looking to fill the lone hole in its tournament trophy case.

This year’s TIPOFF Tournament features a new format. In WGS’ three-team group, the round robin consists of two games against each team, one on each team’s host server. Each team plays four total games, with the highest winning percentage advancing to the best-of-three playoff rounds held June 18-19. One wildcard team, selected through win percentage and point differential, will also join the seven group winners in the quarterfinals. Even in the new format, however, WGS will see some familiar faces early in its quest for the banner.

Pacers Gaming joins WGS in a three-team THE TIPOFF group for the second consecutive year after eking out a 53-51 win in last year’s group play. It’s a very different Pacers team from last year, however, with three new starters from last season and the returning leaders at new positions. BOHIO, the team’s top 2020 pick (No. 4), mans the point guard spot; 2018 Finals MVP NateKahl, acquired via trade from NetsGC, is the new primary lockdown defender; former Blazer5 Gaming veteran Jomar, drafted No. 23 in 2020, is the team’s new center. Franchise cornerstone Wolf has moved to shooting guard, where he’s the team’s secondary lockdown defender (the Pacers were the first team to introduce the double-lockdown lineup), while sharpshooter Swizurk suits up at power forward.

The third team in the group also features a key piece of the Knicks 2018 championship team (which, coincidentally, beat WGS in the opening game of their 2018 THE TIPOFF group) makes his appearance for a new team in group 3. Goofy757, the key piece in a blockbuster offseason trade, starts at center for Grizz Gaming. The Grizz’s other four starters are holdovers from the 2019 season, where the Grizz finished 9-7: Vandi at point guard, third-year vet DDouble at power forward, and Jrod the sharpshooter at small forward. The versatile AuthenticAfrican is among the league leaders at lockdown defender, to which he moved to create space in the lineup for Goofy757.

Both of WGS’s pool play matchups sit at 4-4 on the season but enter the tournament on a hot streak. Pacers Gaming lost its final pre-tournament series, but is 3-1—including a sweep of T-Wolves Gaming—in its four games since introducing its double-lockdown lineup. Grizz Gaming, meanwhile, is a cool 4-0 in its last four games, including its own win over the T-Wolves, theirs in dramatic come-from-behind fashion.

There will be no easy path to the title for WGS. But the squad knows what it takes to win a tournament, and the elusive TIPOFF title might be just a banner day away.

Games will air live on ESPN2, and the ESPN app, as well as the NBA 2K League’s Twitch and YouTube channels. In Canada, Sportsnet will broadcast games on Tuesday, June 16 from 6-9 p.m. ET. Games will also air on delay on eGG Network in Southeast Asia. For the list of tiebreakers, other TIPOFF groups, and more info, see here.