NBA 2K19 simulation of East vs. UPrep: What we learned

A virtual Zechariah Harris-Scott dropped 36 points in a simulation of East vs. UPrep. (NBA 2K19 screenshot)

By BILLY HEYEN

East and UPrep didn’t face off during the regular season, and because the two sectional champions were in different state classes, they weren’t due to change that. But with the cancellation of the state tournament due to the coronavirus, both teams were left wondering what might’ve been.

To come up with some hypothetical answers, Pickin’ Splinters simulated a game in NBA 2K19 between Section V’s AA state representative UPrep and the Class A rep, East. The simulation featured the Eagles coming out on top, 81-63, in large part due to a huge second quarter run. Zechariah Harris-Scott led the virtual East squad with 36 points and 12 rebounds, while Kayshawn Ross’ 24 paced the virtual Griffins.

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Before we get into what we learned from the simulation, here’s a quick look at the parameters:

  • The simulation took place on a Playstation 4 version of the video game NBA 2K19
  • Each team was given the game’s minimum eight-man rotation
  • Ratings were created by Pickin’ Splinters to best replicate each player’s real-life impact on the floor
  • The game was simulated live with high-school length eight-minute quarters and NBA fouling rules
  • Substitutions and timeouts were controlled by the in-game computer
  • East’s roster would play for the Los Angeles Lakers due to the purple and gold color scheme
  • UPrep’s roster would play for the Utah Jazz due to a similar color scheme and the ‘U’ starting letter
  • East’s roster would not include Justus Ross-Simmons, who was out for the second half of the season due to injury

‘Best player in Rochester’

After what turned out to be East’s final game of the regular season, Eagles head coach Darrell Barley said that Harris-Scott is “the best player in Rochester hands down, because he can do everything.”

The virtual Harris-Scott was in control all Tuesday evening in NBA 2K19. He scored the Eagles’ first bucket on a three-point play that started with a righty floater off glass. His computer-controlled character was obviously feeling it when he dribbled back about five feet to take (and make) a 3 late in the first quarter, too.

Harris-Scott beat everyone down the floor for a two-handed slam in the second quarter, and a late-half fadeaway gave him 16 at the break.

East pulled away quickly in the third quarter thanks to more scoring from Harris-Scott, first on a pull-up jumper and then on another three-point play.

The Eagles’ virtual head coach recognized that Harris-Scott needed to keep getting the ball out of a second-half timeout, too. UPrep had just closed to within 13, so the Eagles ran a pin-down screen for Harris-Scott.

Beyond the 3-point line on the right wing, Harris-Scott nailed the shot.

Harris-Scott scored the game’s final bucket, a tomahawk righty slam to punctuate the victory.

If one simulated game of NBA 2K19 is any indication, Barley might’ve been right in his take on Rochester’s best player. The virtual Harris-Scott finished with his 36 points on 15-of-25 from the floor, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and a perfect 4-of-4 from the foul line.

Game of runs

Players are fond of explaining away mid-game spurts by pointing out that basketball is a game of runs. The virtual hardwood was no exception on Tuesday night.

A Melvin Council Jr. layup put UPrep up 25-22 in the second quarter. From that point on, until nearly halftime, East went on a 17-2 run.

The middle of the run included two highlights from East’s Clinique Jackson. He’d stepped into the starting lineup midseason when Ross-Simmons was knocked out for the season with an injury and immediately made his mark in a win at Leadership

The lefty showed off a serious virtual vertical leap on a lob from Kai McCullough to go up three points. Then the next time down the floor, Jackson stepped into a 3 at the top of the arc to go up six, and the game was never closer again.

Griffins keep dunking

What turned out to be UPrep’s final game of the season was a sectional final victory over McQuaid. The Griffins got off to a high-flying start in that one, with Na’Zea Fowlks and then Ross both throwing down huge dunks early.

UPrep’s best success in Tuesday night’s simulation came in similar fashion. Early on, Fowlks found Ross on an alley-oop for two.

In the second quarter, Council drove baseline for a right-handed slam and a temporary UPrep lead in the middle of East’s big run.

Out of halftime, the first bucket came courtesy of Fowlks, who drove down the lane and threw down with two hands.

Brandon Moore Jr. went on to pick out Ross for another alley-oop in the second half, but the dunking alone wouldn’t be enough.

Virtual refs and coaches: So-so

Those proponents of referees letting players play in big games would’ve been thrilled at how the simulation was officiated. Two players, one on each team, were charged with three personal fouls, while no other player had more than one.

The UPrep virtual coaching left more to be desired. Council, the Griffins’ star and acknowledged by multiple area coaches as one of Section V’s best players, didn’t even shoot for more than six minutes of game time to start the night. That’s despite Council’s overall in-game rating being five points higher than the next closest UPrep player.

Council got cooking in the second quarter, but again the Griffins went away from him too frequently. The real-life senior finished 8-of-13 from the floor, the only UPrep player to shoot better than 50 percent, but he only attempted 20 percent of the Griffins’ field goals.

Unlike the virtual East coach, who drew up play after play for the hot Harris-Scott, UPrep’s virtual coach too often left the ball in the hands of players not making the same impact. That really tells us nothing, other than leaving the simulation viewer wanting more in what could’ve been a classic shootout between Harris-Scott and Council.

Fastbreak fun

East won the game by 18 points, and nearly that whole margin could be explained by the virtual Eagles’ 25-8 advantage in fastbreak points.

One quirk of NBA 2K19’s computer play is a stagnancy in halfcourt offense. It’s not that the teams don’t run set plays – the computer players just tend to lack aggressiveness. That means that getting out and running can be the key to overcoming that simulated struggle.

In real life, UPrep gets out on the break as well as anyone. In Tuesday night’s simulation, though, the Griffins rarely did so, in part because of a much more efficient virtual Eagles offense.

The simulated defenses don’t always get set up perfectly in transition, either, which allowed for easy buckets like Harris-Scott’s down low in the second quarter.

East-UPrep NBA 2K19 simulation highlights

Below are all the video highlights, in order, taken from Tuesday night’s simulation of a hypothetical East-UPrep matchup.

Final scoring totals:

East: Zechariah Harris-Scott (36), Damani Barley (12), Clinique Jackson (11), Kai McCullough (8), Freddie Brock (8), Kaori Barley (4), Korey Ellis (2)

UPrep: Kayshawn Ross (24), Melvin Council Jr. (18), Na’Zea Fowlks (8), Christian Edwards (6), Brandon Moore Jr. (5), James Matthews II (2)

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