So what went so horribly wrong? Well, both teams failed to step up in the playoffs. Their best players did not come through when it really counted. They didn't pull together. They weren't hungry enough. There's no way to candy coat it. In their first two games against the Boston Bruins, the Leafs looked overmatched and unprepared. Boston played with confidence and poise. The Leafs, on the hand, didn't resemble the same team that won 49 games during the regular season. Where were Auston Matthews and William Nylanders? A team's top players are supposed to shine in the playoffs. Boston's big line of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak completely dominated the Blue and White. In addition, Leaf goaltender Frederik Aandersen was far from outstanding. Freddie was not so steady. The red-headed Dane has certainly played better, but it was not all his fault. The Leafs' defence was not exactly stellar and Jake Gardiner. had a painful Game 7. Gardiner he took the loss hard, declaring that he "didn't show up" and that he "let a lot of people down."
As for the Toronto Raptors, I honestly expected much more from them than from the Leafs. They played so impressively during the regular season and it seemed as if their time had finally come. The first playoff round ended well for the Raps. They defeated the Washington Wizards in six games. However, for the third season in a row, they were spooked by the Cleveland Cavaliers and King LeBron James. James completely unnerved the Raptors. They didn't know how to deal with him.. He psyched them out. He toyed with them. He humiliated them. It was difficult for Toronto fans to watch.
What happened to DeMar DeRozan? Although healthy, he was benched for the final 14 minutes of the Raptors' 105-103 defeat in Game 3 against Cleveland. DeRozan is an all-star. He's no LeBron, but he's the Raptors' best player. Something is terribly wrong when your best player is so ineffective that he isn't utilized in the closing minutes of a crucial playoff game.
Coach Dwane Casey paid the price for the Raptors' poor performance against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second round of the playoffs. He was fired soon after, despite the 59 wins and receiving the Coach of the Year Award from the NBA Coaches Association. As sports fans know, it often happens that way. The players can't all be fired, so the coach becomes the fall guy. I'm not saying that Casey doesn't bear any responsibility for the Cleveland debacle. No one player or coach should shoulder all the blame. That fiasco was a team effort and Casey deserved better.