It wasn't exactly the showdown between LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard NBA fans have been looking forward to, but Trae Young and Deandre Ayton provided a potential Western Conference Finals preview in Thursday's NBA 2K Players Tournament battle.
Ayton, the No. 10 seed in the 16-player bracket, chose Leonard's L.A. Clippers and defeated the second-seeded Young 73-66 in the second-round matchup.
Players can only use a team once throughout the tournament, and both youngsters chose the Los Angeles powerhouses with a spot in the semifinals on the line.
Ayton wasted little time seizing momentum with the Clippers, jumping out to a double-digit lead in the first half behind triples from Paul George, Landry Shamet and Lou Williams. He put Young in comeback mode from the early going, but the Atlanta Hawks guard chipped away at the lead to set up the back-and-forth with James and Leonard.
After the Lakers pulled within three in the third quarter, Leonard unleashed three straight jumpers and a steal to push it back to 10.
From there, James threw down back-to-back-to-back dunks before Leonard answered with an and-1 slam of his own. Much like the actual games, the virtual Lakers and Clippers knew where to turn in the second half, and the King gave Young a one-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
While the two biggest stars put on a show in the third quarter, it was George who took it home for Ayton.
PG-13 swung the momentum with a key steal followed by an and-1 dunk in transition in the final three minutes and then mixed in a layup and critical free throws to create some much-needed separation in crunch time.
That was enough to push the Phoenix Suns big man into the next round.
Ayton will face the winner of the matchup between Patrick Beverley and Andre Drummond in the semifinals.