The North American giants join FaZe on the team list for the season finals, with the two sides now set to go head-to-head in the group final for a bigger piece of the $300,000 prize pool and a better seeding at the event in Moscow.
NiP put up a strong fight and properly tested Liquid, but taking down the current No.3 team in the world would ultimately prove too big a task for the Swedes, who have reasons to smile after putting up an impressive comeback on Mirage. Jonas "Lekr0" Olofsson's troops still have a shot at the Spring Finals via the Showdown stage, where the bottom sides from the group stage will be joined by qualified teams.
A win is a win, but Liquid can't be too happy with how close the series ended up being. They played a minimum-requirement match, confirming Jonathan "EliGE" Jablonowski's assessment that the team have yet to find their best form, which doesn't bode well for their chances against a fired-up FaZe.
The battle for a spot at the Spring Finals began on Vertigo, which NiP coach Björn "THREAT" Pers had recently described as "probably our best map right now". The Swedish team recovered from a slow start once their economy stabilised and took control of proceedings, going ahead for the first time at 5-4. It looked like NiP were in control of the game, but Liquid tightened up their defense and responded with some great crossfires to end the half with a 9-6 lead despite a solid display from Tim "nawwk" Jonasson, who was sitting on 16 frags.
NiP halted Liquid's momentum by winning the following pistol round as they denied Russel "Twistzz" Van Dulken the 1v3 clutch, but there would be no follow-up as the North Americans replied on a force-buy. Nick "nitr0" Cannella's troops put together a string of rounds to further add to their lead and, after a brief period of NiP dominance, ran away with the game.
Twistzz wreaked havoc in the early stages of Mirage, powering Liquid to a 6-1 lead with 14 kills to his name. NiP then put their foot down and held Liquid back for a while, but the North Americans came fighting back in the dying stages of the half to pick up a 10-5 lead.
Liquid came out of the break determined to wrap up the game and dominated the NiP defense to bring the scoreline to 14-6. The game seemed to be almost over, but the Swedes showed their fighting spirit and began to chip away at the deficit, with Fredrik "REZ" Sterner unlocking the B site on numerous occasions. A timely flank from EliGE put Liquid on match point at 15-13, but they would not be able to strike the finishing blow in regulation. With the game wide open, the Ninjas won the first half of overtime 2-1 before a flawless T side from Liquid saw the North Americans walk away with a victory that was just too close for comfort.