By Griffin Finch
The Cleveland Cavaliers took out the brooms defeating the Toronto Raptors in four games. This result was the biggest surprise of the postseason so far. The Raptors had been rolling all year achieving the top seed in the East. Everyone was thinking that this year would be the year that Toronto would get past LeBron who has been the Raptors kryptonite for as long as they have been making the playoffs. But as in years past, the Raptors folded under the pressure and went home in the second round.
The Raptors boasted a top five offense and defense during the regular season. Usually this feat is only accomplished by teams that are at least competitive in the Conference Finals. This is why many picked them to beat the Cavs and advance further in the playoffs. Instead, Toronto collapsed in the face of the King’s greatness. We thought they had learned from seasons past and matured enough as a team to overcome their struggles in previous seasons. Unfortunately, their star DeMar Derozan lived up to his postseason nickname “DeMar DeFrozen” and averaged only 16 points, 4 rebounds and 3 assists in the series including an 8 point game 3 in which he was so ineffective that he was benched for the entirety of the fourth quarter. DeRozan’s moribund performance had a trickle down effect on the rest of his team making the whole team play worse than we know they are capable of. After witnessing this happening year after year I have concluded that the Raptors are just a mentally weak team and until they find a way to become mentally tougher they will not be able to produce when the lights shine brightest.
Going into this series the questions were “What does LeBron have left in the tank?” and “Will he get enough help from his teammates?”. Well obviously LeBron had enough to get the Cavs past the Raptors. The King is the greatest in the world for a reason and now he has also mastered the art of reserving himself for the high leverage moments in which he is needed the most. Just when you think there is no way he can give anymore he kicks it into another gear that we haven’t even seen yet. As basketball fans, I think we need to stop assuming that LeBron will get tired at any point before the finals. However LeBron by himself wouldn’t of been enough to get to the conference finals this year. Luckily for him unlike against the Pacers in the first round several other Cavaliers showed up to help their leader. Jeff Green played well, J.R. Smith found his jump shot and Kevin Love even had a 31 point game in game 3. I think the Cleveland Cavaliers have a psychological effect on the Raptors that somehow makes them believe that they can not win. Everytime they see LeBron they wilt like dying flowers. They only do this against Cleveland which leads me to believe that LeBron has started using mind games to beat his enemies much like Kobe and Michael Jordan did. They demoralized their opponent to a point where they submit to them before the game or series was even close to over. This is a skill that only the greatest of all time have been able to employ. The use of this skill in my opinion has firmly cemented LeBron as one of the greatest to ever play the game of basketball.
Toronto has two crucial questions to answer this offseason. Is there team currently constructed good enough? And is a team whose best player is DeMar Derozan good enough to win a championship? If the answer to either of these questions is no, then they need to blow it up and start to rebuild. If they do think they are good enough I guess they can keep trying the same formula and hoping it eventually works out for them. Personally I think the need to reset everything, move everyone, aim for a high draft pick and try to land a young star. The Cavaliers go on to face either the 76ers or the Celtics. If they play Philadelphia I think the Cavs will come out on top. The 76ers are to young and inexperienced to beat Lebron. The Celtics have proven that even though they are severely undermanned Brad Stevens can find a way to beat teams. This potential matchup could go either way in my mind. Either way considering the personnel and the struggles they went through this year, I consider this season a successful one for the Cavaliers.