It probably won’t be the basketball that will be remembered about this Orlando bubble to finish the 2019-2020 season, and rightly so. That doesn’t mean some of the teams and players aren’t going to try. The Celtics and Raptors engaged in an absolute bonkers ending to Game 3, and when it was all said and done the Raptors, pulling off a one-point victory, 104-103, were at least still at the table in the series.
It all started, which will be forgotten thanks to what came after, with this absurd layup from Fred Vanvleet to tie the game at 101 with 21 seconds to go.
That’s a pretty ambitious table-setter, and worthy of winning a game or sending it to OT on its own. Adding to the uniqueness of all this is that it’s even more rare that we end up talking about a pass to win a game. It’s always the shot. Kemba Walker thought he had changed that custom with this bit of improvised genius.
You know it’s a world-class pass when you can see the air go out of all five defenders at the same time. It was like they had all of their controllers turned off at once. All knowing that it shouldn’t have happened, and yet knowing as well there was nothing any of them could do about it. Only a few times a game is a defense completely Y-incisioned, and it almost never happens at the end of the 4th.
Who comes up with a no-look in the last second of a game? Coaches of days gone past would have you thrown out of the league for even thinking of such a thing, if not killed. And we still weren’t done.
0.5 seconds technically is time enough to win in the NBA. You occasionally see a player get a shot off. Maybe once or twice a year you even see them make it. But it’s usually some rushed hurl at the rim that just crashes it’s way through the net. It’s never open and smooth.
Everything about what came next is poetry.
The pass from Kyle Lowry to OG Anunoby is one Aaron Rodgers would stand up and applaud, if not openly weep at the sight of every pass he’s ever thrown relegated to “the rest.” Over the 7-5 Tacko Fall. Over the rest of the players on the floor. Over Jaylen Brown, who couldn’t have been more than a foot or two inside from where he would need to be to intercept this, if that. And yet after traveling 50 feet, it hits Anunoby right in the chest, nestled into his hands as if it were an egg, where he settled into a regular jumpshot. He doesn’t have to lean back to corral it. Or lunge forward, or lean to the side. He caught it perfectly balanced and in rhythm. This isn’t threading a needle. This is shooting the wings off a fly at 50 feet.
That doesn’t mean Anunoby’s job was easy, as he still had to do this all in one motion, which of course he did.
We watch sports to see things we haven’t seen. To watch the best in the world achieve feats we couldn’t even think of. To paint a masterpiece through movement. Celtics-Raptors gave us two of those moments back-to-back, arguably three. It’s a treasure. If it gets lost in history to the landmark events and protests and changes that might happen from what the NBA players have done and will do, that’ll be OK. But if it’s an additive to that, that they did things that sports hadn’t seen before to change lives while also pulling off shit like this, so much the better.
An old friend of mine named Jason Goff (you can follow him on Twitter @Jason1Goff and you should) used to have a phrase to explain when hockey players go off the deep end even though the NHL said it was getting rid of it. “Hockey gonna hockey.” But that saying can apply to so much. Like what happened on Thursday night. Both the Flyers and Canucks were pummeled by the Islanders and Knights, respectively. Both were outshot 2-to-1. Both had no business not being embarrassed, much less winning.
And yet, because one guy on each team didn’t feel like going home, the ones in the masks (yet another great advertisement for mask-wearing), both teams will get to see a Game 7 this weekend. There’s nothing more the Isles or Knights could do, and yet if they don’t win those Game 7s they’ll have to read and hear about all the introspection they have to do and changes they have to make and musings about whether they miss a certain something.
All of it will be horseshit, of course. Hockey often doesn’t make sense, and correct processes don’t always get the right results. Especially if one guy is just on his game. It’s a cruel world
Clayton Kershaw recorded his 2,500th strikeout last night. He’s the 39th in MLB history to do it. We don’t really regard strikeouts as anything other than maintaining oxygen in baseball anymore, but it’s still a heavy landmark.
Kershaw’s status as this generation’s greatest pitcher will be tainted by uneven playoff performances. But unlike his contemporaries, he has been asked to go on three days rest far more often. Or come out of the pen more often. Or carry Dodgers teams that weren’t worthy, and then when they were, they faced a team that was actively cheating.
It’ll be a shame if that’s all he’s remembered for. Even in his 13th season and with nearly 2,500 innings on the odometer, he’s still striking out over a hitter per inning. His WHIP this season is under 1.00 and his ERA under 2.00. Tom Seaver, the greatest pitcher of his era, left the world on Wednesday, and it would be prudent to take measure of this one’s best. It didn’t help Kershaw that he has the personality of an ironing board or never did anything the tabloids might get all hot and bothered about.
But he’s still this generation’s best.