Run It Down - 2018 NA LCS Spring Playoffs - FINALS 100 Thieves v. Team Liquid [SPOILERS]
(1) 100 Thieves v. (4) Team Liquid | (0 - 3)
Team Liquid just had to give us one more taste of 4th before silencing it forever. With their sweep of LCS newcomers 100 Thieves, Team Liquid became the fourth team to win the NA LCS and joined Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming, and Cloud9 as the last of the big four to win an LCS split.
Game 1 was the closest of the three. 100 Thieves had shot out to an early lead, yet were unable to secure neither Rift Herald nor any dragons. Slowly, the game crept away from them until a series of picks that led to a Baron call. Unfortunately for the Thieves, Xmithie's pristine smite struck again as the veteran jungler outplayed their defenses and stole Baron, neatly getting away in the process. Many people will point to this moment as the turning point for the rest of the series, and they would be correct. 100 Thieves were clearly tilted from this point on, and had they secured this Baron, the game—and the series—may have turned out very differently. As it happened, Team Liquid ran away with this steal and ended the game before thirty minutes.
The downward spiral for 100 Thieves didn't stop at the end of Game 1. In the second game of the series, aphromoo and co. returned to the stage with a vengeance, with neither team gaining any meaningful ground. Neutral objectives were still clearly in Liquid's favor, however, as Xmithie continued to outjungle Meteos. This was a perpetuation of Xmithie's dominance in Game 1, and it would last for the remainder of the series. After a good Ryu Taliyah Weaver's Wall seemed to catch Xmithie near Baron, 100 Thieves looked to capitalize. 200 IQ Pobelter had other ideas, however, as a beautiful Emperor's Divide Shurima-shuffled four members of 100 Thieves into Liquid, leading to a secured Baron soon after. The rest of the game was a steamroll, as Liquid took the series lead 2 - 0. 100 Thieves found themselves with their backs to the wall in their elimination game...
And they fought back. After a botched 2v2 top—well, more like two 1v2s—Ssumday's Gnar was up 2/0 on Impact's Maokai, and the game was solidly in 100 Thieves' favor. Their carry top-laner had an early lead, and they weren't going to let it go to waste. Except, two minutes later, 100 Thieves executed an imperfect 3-man dive on Impact, resulting in a kill, but also a Ssumday death. The remainder of the early game, despite that misstep, stayed in 100 Thieves' favor—including first tower—but they continued to lose skirmishes across the map. Liquid may not have won the early game, but their mid-game macro and teamfighting were consistently better than 100 Thieves'. After taking Rift Herald at 17 minutes, Team Liquid kicked into high gear and struck with the force of a great typhoon, suffocating 100 Thieves and keeping them on their side of the river for the rest of the game. At 27:44, Team Liquid destroyed the nexus and became the 4th team to hoist the NA LCS trophy. They had swept the regular season number 1 seed and kept them to 0 neutral objectives throughout the series; 100 Thieves took 0 Rift Heralds, 0 Barons, and 0 Dragons. This was, without a doubt, one of the most one-sided Grand Finals we've ever seen on the LCS stage.
Team Liquid's on-paper power was fully realized during playoffs, and they will be the North American representatives at the Mid-Season Invitational next month. Xmithie returns to the MSI stage two years after his previous appearance with CLG, where they lost to SK Telecom in the Grand Finals, this time with—likely—one of the greatest rosters NA has ever assembled. Doublelift commented that the other teams "have no chance, because they don't have [Xmithie]". Dash said "We're starting to see a Team Liquid that's coming to full fruition and working as a well-oiled machine...so maybe second". There is no question that Kingzone DragonX from the LCK is the best team in the world, but that was the case for SK Telecom at 2016's MSI as well, where Counter Logic Gaming—against all odds—defeated them in group stage and faced them in the Grand Finals. Off the back of CLG's run that year, NA finally showed up at an international event; now it's Team Liquid's turn. Will they crash and burn? Or will Doublelift and co. rise to the occasion?