The NBA playoffs are underway, and there was only one team which earned a 4-0 sweep of its opponent in Round 1. No, it wasn’t Golden State (though they came close) or the Houston Rockets.
Ladies and gentlemen, the only team which raised the broom in Round 1 was the #6 seed in the Western Conference, your New Orleans Pelicans.
On Bourbon Street and throughout the Crescent City, the locals are shouting, “Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Pels”? Not the Cancun-bound #3 seed in the West, the Portland Trailblazers. The Blazers’ vacation began after Game 4 in The Big Easy on Friday night.
It is the first time a #6 seed has swept a third seed in the first round of the NBA playoffs since the league eliminated the best-of-five first round format in 2003.
As a reminder, these New Orleans Pelicans are playing without their 4-time NBA All-Star forward, Demarcus Cousins. “Boogie” is out for the season after suffering a ruptured Achilles tendon halfway through the season.
The media pretty much started writing off the Pelicans’ playoff chances as a result of losing Cousins, who averages over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
But then a funny thing happened in New Orleans.
The team gelled around its star center, Anthony Davis, coming down the stretch of the regular season. Other players began stepping-up to help with the scoring load. Guard Jrue Holiday and forward Nikola Miratic produced additional points for the Pelicans as they found a way to hold onto the #6 seed in the NBA’s Western Conference.
But how did the #6 seed grab four straight games from the Portland Trailblazers?
Two words – Playoff Rondo!
Rajon Rondo, the former Boston Celtics point guard when they won the NBA championship in 2008, really, really loves playing when the spotlight of the playoffs are on. The Pelicans signed the 11-year veteran guard this season after he had one year stints in Dallas, Sacramento, and Chicago.
Rondo has been an exasperating personality throughout his NBA career. Though he was undoubtedly the Boston Celtics’ fiery floor leader, Rondo has been considered a very difficult player to coach. Translated – he tends to do whatever he wants to do once he hits the hardwood.
His impact during the regular season can be inconsistent. But, once the playoffs begin, he flips a switch and morphs into a fiery and focused version of himself.
For his career, Rajon Rondo averages 10 points per game and 8.5 assists. Playoff Rondo, though, hits for 14.3 points per game and 9.2 assists. His intensity and effort are noticeably higher during the playoffs, too.
Playoff Rondo sports a world championship ring from the Boston Celtics. He provides leadership to his younger teammates in New Orleans with incredible intensity and playoff hustle.
These young New Orleans Pelicans have a load of talent. They now believe in themselves after a first round sweep of the Trailblazers.
By adding a spicy dash of Playoff Rondo to the roux in New Orleans, these high-flying Pelicans cannot wait for the second round of the playoffs to tip-off.