The New Orleans Pelicans defeated the L.A. Clippers in the play-in tournament to earn the right to face the league-leading Phoenix Suns. Everyone thinks it will be a sweep. However, it might be a different story if they do these three things.
Can anyone stop the Phoenix Suns?
The way the Suns dominated the regular season is a clear message to the rest of the league: they will not stop until they win the title. Phoenix finished the season with an 8-game lead over everyone else. They've proven they can win without their All-Stars, and that's the scary part.
Here's why they keep on winning: everyone is sharing the ball, the team parades a legit big three in Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Ayton, and the rest of the supporting cast plays their role to perfection. What's not to love about the team?
The Phoenix Suns won 64 games this season. They are everyone's fave to make it to the finals and avenge their loss last year. However, the New Orleans Pelicans plan to write a different ending to that fairytale finish.
How the Pelicans could avoid a sweep
The Pelicans already overachieved this season just by making the playoffs. They shouldn't be here after losing Zion Williamson for the rest of the season and starting with a 1-12 win-loss record. But make no mistake about it, the Pelicans are here to win. It might seem impossible and hard, but stranger things have happened in the NBA.
1. Let Brandon Ingram take over
Brandon Ingram has never played in the playoffs. The series against the Phoenix Suns is the perfect time to break out or learn. Since he got traded to New Orleans, Ingram has developed into a star who still has yet to reach his ceiling. The playoffs are where superstars are born. If BI wants to be considered elite in the league, he should use the playoffs to announce his arrival. Plus, CJ McCollum can provide a great supporting role with his offense and playoff experience. The Pelicans will go as far as Ingram takes them against the Suns.
2. Trust in coach Willie Green
Green may be a rookie head coach, but the Pelicans are not winning anything without him. He's proven he could maximize the talent in his roster. Plus, he's very familiar with the coach on the opposite side.
Green and Suns head coach Monty Williams are close to each other. Williams even admitted Willie helped build the program at Phoenix after being its assistant coach for two seasons before taking over the position at New Orleans. If the Pelicans players want to avoid getting swept, they must buy into their coach's system because he has intensive knowledge of their opponents.
3. Pray and believe
When you go against a historically good team, sometimes all you need to do is believe in yourself and pray to the basketball gods to give you a favor. After all, it has already been done in the past. In 1994, the Seattle Supersonics recorded 63–19, but it went down the drain after the 42-40 8th seed Denver Nuggets defeated them in the first round of playoffs.
The pressure is on the Phoenix Suns not just to win the series but do so in a devastating way. They won three regular games against the Pelicans with double-digit leads. If Phoenix wins close games, it will show weaknesses on their part that other teams could take note of. Their invincibility will go away. The Suns are eager to prove their historic regular season performance was not a fluke. The championship window for CP3 is also closing soon. It's now or never to win a championship for the current Suns roster.
If the Pelicans want to get that mental advantage early in the series, they should win one on the Suns' home court. It will be a different series after that.