Dwayne Casey led the Raptors to the promised land. But it’s what he did once he got there that got him fired.
It’s been funny hearing the Stephen A.’s of the world comment on the absurdity and the issues of firing a coach who just won 59 games, as if this was some silly mistake. This was a common take for outsiders, given that it seemed to be absurd that this roster won 59 games in the first place.
And that’s true, for the most part. Casey did an incredible job with these guys, turning a hopeless franchise into a perennial playoff series winner that won the entire conference with an undrafted Wichita State guard as perhaps their third most valuable player.
Enter: The Boston Celtics.
What Brad Stevens and the Celtics have been able to prove is that there is no such thing as hitting a restricted ceiling with a team, particularly against the Cavs. There are things that can be done to, even when running into the LeBron wall, elevate a team to a position of success in playoff series no matter if they are inferior.
They have proven that “He won 59 with these guys! Is it his fault the Cavs are in the East?” is a terrible argument. The fact is, there is something that can be done, and it’s on the coach to figure that out.
Look, when us fans watch games, we should not be seeing obvious coaching flaws. When CJ Miles guarded Kevin Love in Game 2 and was torched during four straight possessions, we all saw a clear flaw, and something that should have been addressed by Casey.
What coaches are supposed to do is think of things that us fans could never think of. They are professionals, after all. We should watch them run a set and be blown away by it. Scratch that, we don’t even have to be blown away, it just has to be something unique, and something that has been made in a creative manner.
Here, you’ll see the Al Horford pick-and-pop, a play that the Celtics have run constantly throughout their series against Cleveland. They have been able to find a flaw and pick it apart, exposing the lackluster Cavs D with a picture perfect set play.
There’s no example of this in the Raptors series. The Cavs are a flawed team, yet Coach Casey and company failed to think creatively, doing anything defensively or offensively that made fans think, “Hey, that’s smart!”.
That’s exactly why this wasn’t a personnel issue like many have called it. The Raptors didn’t hit a pre-made ceiling, they failed to take advantage of a path ahead of them that took creative thinking, but was certainly possible.
This has been a difficult series to watch out of pure jealously, as we had all expected the Raptors to be playing in mid-May. However, if there’s anything that can be taken away from it, it’s that the outcome has made it easier to sleep at night when it comes to Dwane Casey’s firing. We’ll see what Game 3 has in store.