By: Jeffrey Newholm
The Voyager spacecrafts, which helped unlock the mysteries of the solar system, have a Golden Record on board. It contains tidbits of humanity scientists thought extraterrestrials would like to know about. But after the performances of Kevin Love and LeBron James, who helped the Cavs win both games in Toronto, NASA may need to recall the ships. The display of athleticism from James and Love was so profound, a survey of the accomplishments of mankind just isn’t complete without it.
The Toronto Raptors were embarrassed last season by Cleveland in a 4-0 sweep. The team was completely revamped in the offseason with a new bench rotation, emphasis on threes, and culture reset. Through most of game one the moves seemed to have succeeded. But Toronto missed no less than five winning shots in a game it didn’t trail until overtime. The Raptors bounced back to lead early Thursday, but Kevin Love bounced higher.
A longtime loser in Minnesota, Love arrived in Cleveland in a trade for the conveniently won #1 draft pick. He then suffered a season-ending injury as soon as the playoffs started. Thankfully he signed a multi-year extension and helped lead the Cavs to consecutive Finals appearances. But with his mental health challenges, injuries to his hand and thumb, and chilly postseason shooting, Love has had a challenging 2018 season. Until Thursday. Emboldened by coach Tyronn Lue’s belief in his ability, Love scored 31 points on 11 of 21 shooting and added 11 boards. The Raptors continued to isolate a defender on Love, daring him to post up and take charge of the game. A determined Love gladly acquiesced. But he did have a little help.
King James is ruler of the eastern conference, having conquered it seven years in a row. He dismissively said, when asked about team chemistry in the playoffs, that “it’s only been nine games”. (22 NBA teams would have loved to play so many this season). With the Cavs holding a modest second half lead, James entered the rarefied state of mind athletes call “the zone”. Most games for pro athletes are like most days at our jobs: routine and uneventful. But LeBron has a competitive drive matched by very few others. He scored 43 startling points, with many coming on impossible fade-away jumpers he alone can sink. Toronto fans optimistically bought most of the tickets for game five, but the team will give them a refund if it can’t win at Cleveland’s Q. Those looking for a reimbursement for poor play this week, however, will be left seeing red.
Eventually most hobbies become anachronisms, a following past its proper place in time. One must wonder how aliens will play the golden record considering even most humans can’t play it today. So, too, are the Raptors on the verge of irrelevancy. Win three of the next four and the franchise has a tantalizing opportunity to kill the beast in game seven at home. Failing this, the team will join the Wizards and Bucks as forgettable eastern playoff pretenders. And while Jurassic Park sequels keep bringing back fans, one has to wonder how much longer Canadians will abide by the team that always seems to be in the history book of the King’s museum.