Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday each top the 40-point plateau to help the New Orleans franchise earn their first ever postseason sweep.
For just the second time in their 16-year history, the New Orleans Pelicans are headed to the second round of the NBA playoffs.
New Orleans advances out of the first round with a 131-123 win in Game 4 over the Portland Trail Blazers. Saturday’s game may not have been as large of a blowout as Game 3 — indeed the game could have gone either way late in the fourth quarter — but the Pelicans did something more impressive than beating Portland by a million points: they absorbed each and every one of the Blazers’ best shots and still managed to eliminate Damian Lillard and company in a grand sweep!
Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were again the catalysts in the series-clinching win as the duo combined for a ridiculous 88 points. Davis, 47 points, and Holiday, 41, are the first teammates to score 40+ each in the playoffs since LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did it in that famous Game 7 of the 2016 Finals against the Warriors. However, that’s only the second time that’s happened since the turn of the millennium.
Yeah, Davis and Holiday each had the playoff game of their respective lives. Davis had 47 points — a playoff franchise record, 11 rebounds, three blocks and managed to get to the free throw line a total of 17 times.
Meanwhile, Holiday added eight assists and got to the line 12 times to go with his new career-high of 41 points. Each star knocked down 15 shots and a pair of threes for New Orleans. Most importantly, though, when the game got tight in the fourth quarter — the Pelicans lead was trimmed down to just one, they took over and accounted for 28 of the team’s 31 points in the final frame.
If playoff games are hard, elimination games are infinitely more challenging, but New Orleans answered the call. It certainly wasn’t the cleanest game New Orleans played this series and Portland nearly made the Pelicans pay for their miscues. The Pelicans turned the ball over 14 times, 10 in the first half, and the Blazers were able to get 13 points off them. Portland also had a 19-11 edge in fastbreak points and, despite Anthony Davis going ham, the Blazers had more points in the painted area, 66-60.
“We knew that this game was going to be extremely hard. It doesn’t really matter,” said Head Coach Alvin Gentry in postgame. “You can play any kind of way you want to, but when you play a team in this league and when you play a team that has guys like Dame (Damian Lillard) and CJ (McCollum) and (Al-Farouq) Aminu, guys like that on the team, they still have pride and they’re still going to go out and compete at the highest level and so we knew that it was going to have to be, you know, we were going to have to play probably our best game of this series in order to win. I thought Jrue (Holiday) and AD (Anthony Davis) stepped up big, but we also had other guys that had timely baskets and timely things for us.
It wasn’t hard to miss that Portland’s star duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum registered their best outing of the series. McCollum had a team-high 38 points and Lillard showed a slight semblance to his All-Star self with 19 points and six assists. Al-Farouq Aminu, who was probably the most consistent Blazer during the series, had 28 points and hit on five three-pointers, Jusuf Nurkic had 18 and 11 before fouling out, and Evan Turner was good, not great, with 15 points and five assists.
Before the start of Game 4, Lillard had said that the Blazers would have to be more aggressive and this game certainly turned out to be the chippiest of the series. All told, there were 49 personal fouls called, five technical fouls issued, and McCollum picked up a flagrant foul for hooking E’Twaun Moore around the neck late in the first half. Also, Rajon Rondo and Portland rookie Zach Collins got caught in a scrum with less than a second to play in the opening half after Collins shoved Jrue Holiday and Rondo responded by slapping the ball out of Collins’ hands.
Following the game, Gentry mentioned that he was surprised the series didn’t get more physical before tonight’s action, “I’m surprised that it took this long because if you look at all the other series, you look at Philly and Miami and Boston and Washington, it’s just going to get chippy. When you play a team more than…you’re going to play a team at least four times then things are going to get a little chippy. The thing that we talked about is that we have to keep our composure and our emphasis and our concentration should be on executing offensively and defensively and try to stay away from any of that.”
Coming into the series, the consensus with the national media was that Portland would be the ones to advance. New Orleans proved the pundits wrong and left no doubt while doing so.
Moving forward, the road for New Orleans is only going to get more difficult. A date with Golden State likely looms on the horizon and the Pelicans will, once again, be the underdogs. Although they lost three of four to the Warriors this season, they did beat them earlier this April and they were competitive in all three losses as the Pelicans did hold double digit leads at some point of those contests.
While Anthony Davis and company have eyes on bigger goals than merely advancing to the second round, the 4-0 sweep of Portland is an accomplishment worth celebrating. New Orleans has notched their second ever postseason series since the team arrived in 2002 and Davis can now say he’s taken his team as far as Chris Paul ever took the then-Hornets.
Maybe, like in 2008, the ride ends in the second round, but with New Orleans proving many doubters wrong this series, who’s to say they can’t do it again? Whatever happens in round two happens, but until it does, enjoy this tremendous victory.
How sweep it is. Geaux Pels!