Because of the season series the New Orleans Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers split, many believed this first round series of the NBA playoffs would be back and forth. The Pelicans showed this assumption was completely wrong. They bullied and dominated the Trail Blazers to a series sweep. This is the same New Orleans team that lost one of their stars, DeMarcus Cousins, to injury for the year. There is much optimism for this young team. Portland, on the other hand, ends another year falling short of their potential, failing to build on their past year’s growth. We take a look at these two teams in this post series analysis.
New Orleans Pelicans Sweep Portland Trail Blazers
The MVP: Jrue Holiday
Under most circumstances, it would be Anthony Davis. However, with Cousins out, Davis needed offensive help. We know what Davis is capable of; one of the questions was if Jrue Holiday would show up. He did in a big way.
Holiday averaged 28 points in this four-game sweep. He shot 57 percent from the field and averaged seven assists. His spectacular play led to a 33 point performance in game two, and a 41 point explosion in game four to seal the series. Holiday’s importance not only lies on the offensive end but also defensive as well. His ability to shut down Damian Lillard was one of the key reasons for New Orleans’ success.
The Brow Shines
Davis rose to the occasion when his team needed him. After scoring a career high in points this season, he went on to average 33 points in this series against Portland, a career high in the postseason. Along with his career high in points, Davis averaged 12 rebounds, three blocks and shot 57 percent from the field. Davis’ versatility not only comes from his defense, but from his ability to score from anywhere on the court. Portland was unable to find an answer to Davis. That was perhaps the biggest downfall for them in the series.
Damian Lillard Struggles
Lillard turned in an MVP-type performance in the regular season. However as the playoffs started, he transformed into a completely different player. Lillard averaged 27 points and shot 44 percent from the field in the regular season. In the playoffs, he shot career lows in points per game and field goal percentage. His mediocre play comes off the heals of one of Portland’s best seasons in years. His poor play in the playoffs will stick with him until he is able to win games more consistently. His team has been swept the past two years in the first round.
The root of Portland’s deficiencies falls on their depth. The Trail Blazers only had three players on their roster that averaged double digits for the regular season. This team has to lean heavily on Lillard and C.J. McCollum in order to win on a regular basis. Their playoff record the last five seasons is 11-24. Portland has a solid young core in Lillard, McCollum, and Jusuf Nurkic. Something is not working currently and they need a major shakeup, whether it be on the roster or coaching in order to build sustainable playoff success.
Party in New Orleans
Fans of the Pelicans have a lot to cheer about, winning their first playoff game and series in seven years. This team was not expected to do much when Cousins went down. They have overachieved so far in the playoffs and look to keep their fantastic play going. The offense was not a problem for these Pelicans; they averaged 115 points in these four games. Barring a major upset, they will be playing the Golden State Warriors in the second round. Regardless of what happens this year, the Pelicans showed a lot of promise these last few games. If this team can retain Cousins and sign a veteran or two, they look to be an interesting contender to reach the finals next year.
March 03, 2016: New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) reacts to a play during the NBA game between the San Antonio Spurs and the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA. (Photograph by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire) (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire/Corbis via Getty Images)