After two rounds of beating lower-seeded opponents, Montrezl Harrell finally ran into some real competition in the NBA 2K Tournament semifinals. Unfortunately, that meant the end of Harrell’s run.
No. 8 seed Harrell lost to No. 3 Devin Booker, two games to none, in the best-of-three semifinals.
Harrell’s team selection appeared to be his undoing in the semifinal round. He was goaded into choosing the Clippers in round one so that he and Domantas Sabonis could both play as their own teams, but that removed one of his best teams for the later rounds. When Booker chose the Clippers for their first game, Harrell reasonably decided to save the Bucks for a potential Bucks-Lakers matchup down the line. However, he selected the Rockets to face the Clippers instead of a better fit like the Celtics.
The Clippers had little difficulty with the Rockets in real life, despite their small-ball gimmick, and Booker (Clippers) was similarly dominant against Harrell, winning 68-54. He led throughout and was up 5 after the first quarter, up 10 at halftime, and up 15 after the third quarter before settling in at the end.
Harrell didn’t talk much trash in the first two rounds, but he was especially unable to against Booker given that he was using the Clippers. He referred to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as 2 and 13 to maintain some emotional distance and couldn’t do anything by smile when Booker scored with the Harrell avatar.
Clippers President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said earlier this week he loved Harrell’s commentary about his team during the first round, and it makes sense that he wasn’t able to flip the switch just for a 2K Tournament.
“I thought Trezz’s commentary was unbelievable. Like if you just took Trezz’s soundtrack, in terms of how he was talking about our guys, I thought that was really really cool, just shows you the type of teammate he was, is.”
Booker repeatedly baited Harrell during the matchup, saying he didn’t want the friendly Trezz, he wanted Monsta Trezz. He joked about Doc Rivers running onto the court at the end of the game when Harrell went on a mini-run and said coach D’Antoni was going to sub Trezz out for taking a midrange jumper.
Harrell didn’t exactly stick to the Houston game plan. He started by saying he wanted to go five out and switch everything, and he was relatively even with Booker when both starting lineups were in, but it all fell apart with the second unit. Booker was more aggressive in keeping the Clippers starters in for longer minutes, and once Harrell put Tyson Chandler in the game (and ran significant amounts of offense through him), the dye was cast.
Rivers was asked about his opinions of the tournament, given that two of his players are participating. He said on a media conference call that it didn’t interest him enough to watch more than a few minutes at a time, but he was learning about his players through their strategy.
“You are finding out like who they like, who they (think) can make shots. They’re letting some of the strangest guys take big shots. I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s interesting.’ Especially in the two-for-one situations that these guys are all doing, it’s funny who they swing the ball to. So it’s been a teacher in that way, for sure.”
After losing game 1, Harrell was essentially boxed into picking the Bucks for his second game. Booker responded with the Raptors, and it was a tight game throughout. The two teams were tied at 31 at the half, and though Harrell scored five points to the start the second half, they traded the lead for most of the third and fourth quarters.
Ultimately, Booker was able to make more plays at the end of the game and sealed the victory by stripping Giannis Antetokounmpo with Fred VanVleet to win 65-62. He advances to play the winner of Patrick Beverley and Deandre Ayton later today.