The second round of the NBA playoffs is underway and the dust has finally settled on one of the most entertaining first rounds in recent memory. In this roundtable, we make our pick for the most surprising team of the first round.
New Orleans Pelicans
Jonathan Ebrahimi - @Awrashoo
The most impressive team in this year’s first round has been the New Orleans Pelicans. The fact that they are missing their second best player and were able to sweep the higher seeded Trail Blazers was extremely impressive. Anthony Davis has been a monster as per usual, and Jrue Holiday is looking better than any other point in his career. That duo, along with huge help from Nikola Mirotic and Rajon Rondo has played so well that some people are questioning whether they will beat the Golden State Warriors in the second round. Not bad for a team that many thought could miss the playoffs altogether.
Preston Ellis - @PrestonEllis
YOUR New Orleans Pelicans. This is your Cinderella team of the 2017/18 season, make no mistake about it. Even now, The Ringer and ESPN are posting articles threatening to break up this thriving core.
No team in the NBA has dealt with the adversity the Pelicans have in terms of national media scrutiny, injuries, and even tragedy. The Pelicans have done it all season long, when everyone preferred instead that they just “blow it up.”
Instead, the Pelicans are here, with the best two man combination in the NBA on both ends of the court. Jrue Holiday and Anthony Davis tied a record with 88 combined points in Game 4, to go along with stifling defense and the only first round sweep in these playoffs.
Mike Ciervo - @4th_Mike
The Pelicans were considered dead in the water after DeMarcus Cousins went down in late January but New Orleans just wouldn’t play the role. After adjusting a slow style of play mostly run though Boogie or Anthony Davis to a more Alvin Gentry-fied offense of up tempo, spazzoid basketball, the Pelicans took off. In the first round Rondo looked like it was 2010; Jrue Holiday showed everyone why he is the Rodney Dangerfield of the NBA (“No respect! He gets no respect”) and AD proved again he is the best big in the league. They soundly dispatched a defensively good Portland team by pushing the floor and whipping the ball around like an old school game of hot potato in 4 games while barely breaking a sweat. Will they beat Golden State? Probably not. Will it be ridiculous fun to watch both teams combine for roughly 2,158,645 points per game in the series? Hell yeah. If this is the Pels minus Boogie, the question becomes do they even need him? To be continued…
Evan Dyal - @EvanDyal
I know I should pick another series, but the Pelicans have to be the most surprising team of the playoffs. People thought they were good and could present Portland some problems; no one saw them raising their play this much. This team and individual players are clicking at the right time, and they have collectively raised their ceiling. Holiday is looking like a star, Mirotic has found his footing in New Orleans and has become solid on defense and a lethal complement to Anthony Davis, who right now is a superstar reaching his apex right now. Also, Playoff Rondo is a real thing, and E'Twaun Moore is as reliable as it gets. New Orleans is the story of the playoffs, and I can't wait to see them against the Warriors.
Quinton Hoey - @quintonhoey
Definitely the New Orleans Pelicans. Every Pelican was phenomenal. Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday were the best two stars on the floor, against a team not devoid of stars, shaved Nikola Mirotic elevated his game to a new level and the supporting cast, led by Rajon Rondo, filled in the gaps. Their perimeter defenders really seemed to rattle Damian Lillard over the course of a series, something never really seen before, and not just Holiday. E’twaun Moore held his own and so did Rondo when the match up occurred. They were consistently good over a stretch of games against a legitimately good team, and that is something we have never seen from the Pelicans. It was shocking to watch them finish the deal in every game. Holiday and Davis scored 88 combined points in game four. Those are Kyrie and LeBron numbers…
Steve Lerner - @lernersteve1
I'm going to go with the 76ers. Not just because they soundly beat a really good, clever Miami team -- although that was a pleasant jolt of a surprise. But because they pulled off an insane same-day surprise -- Meek Mill got freed and then TOOK A HELICOPTER TO THE GAME and then RANG THE BELL WHILE KEVIN HART WAS BOWING AT HIM TO BE A PART OF THE MOMENT and then DREAMS AND NIGHTMARES STARTED PLAYING and everyone watching got a weird mixture of pride and tears and adrenaline at the same time. Meek Mill had the biggest zero-to-hero day since that time John McClane started a day on the outs with his estranged wife and ended it by killing a whole building full of terrorists and throwing Alan Rickman off of a skyscraper.
Dominic Roney - @DomRoney
The most surprising team in round one is the Indiana Pacers. When the postseason ended, and everyone saw the Pacers had to play LeBron James and the Cavs in the first round, they thought it was over. There was talk of LeBron James “flipping the switch” and “coming into playoff form.” But Indiana came right out of the gate taking Game 1 in Cleveland to serve LeBron a first round loss for the first time since 2012. That’s 21 straight first round postseason wins for LBJ and the Indiana Pacers were able to give him 3 first round losses in the same series! Surely you couldn’t have seen that coming.
Kory Waldron - @KwalHoops
Seen as a lottery team in rebuild mode, unlikely to surpass 32 wins on the year. To being the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference and pushing the LeBron James driven Cleveland Cavaliers to 7 games. The Pacers defied the odds all year and put on an absolute thrilling series against the Cavs. The Cavaliers & LeBron James did in fact defeat the Pacers, but I’ll remain strong to the point of the Pacers being the better team.
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