The New Orleans Pelicans have achieved their first playoff sweep in franchise history with their win against the Portland Trailblazers late last week, giving them a 4-0 series victory.
On the back of some terrific play by Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday the Pelicans were able to answer any challenge laid down by the Blazers. A quick rundown of the results of each game –
Game 1: Pelicans 97 d Blazers 95
Game 2: Pelicans 111 d Blazers 102
Game 3: Pelicans 119 d Blazers 102
Game 4: Pelicans 131 d Blazers 123
The Pelicans were guided through this first round by the aforementioned two players and Rajon Rondo who has been the missing ingredient in the Pelicans structures. Rondo allows Holiday to play off the ball more, allows him to be more aggressive going towards the basket and not worry about setting up teammates. Holiday is now able to create for his teammates based off his own aggressiveness without having to force anything, as was often the case when he was playing the point guard spot.
Most people wrote off the Pelicans when DeMarcus Cousins went down with a season ending injury and they definitely went into this series as underdogs. However those three players managed to lift the team over the more highly fancied Trailblazers, throughout the series those three players averaged –
Davis: 33ppg (57% shooting), 12rpg, 1.3apg, 2.8bpg and 1.8spg
Holiday: 27.8ppg (57% shooting), 4rpg, 6.5apg, 0.5bpg and 1.3spg
Rondo: 11.3ppg (49% shooting), 7.5rpg, 13.3apg, 0.3bpg and 0.8spg
They were also ably supported by the likes of Nikola Mirotic, who averaged 18ppg and 10rpg for the series, and E’Twaun Moore who were both either inserted into the starting lineup or coming off the bench.
Aside from the fantastic offensive outbursts from Holiday and Davis, the effort on the defensive end can’t be overlooked. Holiday, in particular, had the tough assignment of guarding Blazers superstar Damian Lillard and did a great job on the All Star guard – for the series Lillard averaged:
Lillard: 18.5ppg (35% shooting), 4.5rpg, 4.8apg, 0bpg and 1.3spg
During the regular season his averages looked a little different –
Lillard (regular season): 26.9ppg (44% shooting), 4.5rpg, 6.6apg, 0.4bpg and 1.1spg
The effort from Holiday this whole season cannot be taken for granted, it is just that this series was an absolute cracker series for him. It’s a story of perseverance for both Holiday and the Pelicans. During his first three seasons with the franchise he missed approximately 110 games with a number of injury troubles, he then took time away from the game to care for his wife while she was ill and finally, he manages to get a full season under his belt since he came across to New Orleans from the Philadelphia 76ers.
With Cousins out of the picture for now, the Pelicans needed someone to step up and provide that firepower alongside Davis and Holiday has answered that call – Rondo is setting the table for them nicely and as mentioned he has been the missing piece.
They move forward to the second round where they will face either the Golden State Warriors or the San Antonio Spurs – that series currently sits at 3-1 to the Warriors.