SportsPulse: USA TODAY Sports’ Sam Amick breaks down the Pelicans’ shocking sweep of the Trail Blazers and the rest of Saturday’s NBA playoff action. USA TODAY Sports
When C.J. McCollum made a recent visit on USA TODAY Sportsâ€™ NBA A to Z podcast, the fifth-year Portland guard made a valid point about the lack of accountability in sports media.
â€śI donâ€™t likeâ€¦the fact that everyoneâ€™s not always held accountable for predictions that go wrong,â€ť said McCollum, who graduated from Lehigh University with a degree in journalism. â€śThereâ€™s just that dynamic that I donâ€™t always like, because I think we should all be held accountable for what we say.â€ť
Little did he know at the time how ironic his words wouldÂ be. As it turns out, we were dead wrong about these Blazers.
The third-seeded Trail Blazers were swept by sixth-seeded New Orleans in their first-round playoff series on Saturday at the Smoothie King Center, where they fell 131-123 in Game 4 and thus proved seemingly every prognosticator wrong in the process. Not only did all four of USA TODAY Sportsâ€™ experts pick Portland, but all 22 of ESPNâ€™s writersÂ and all six from CBS Sports did as well. The Washington Post, however, got it right.Â
The Pelicans, who are likely headed toward a second-round matchup with the defending champion Golden State Warriors (theyâ€™re up 3-0 on San Antonio), were carried by Anthony Davis (47 points on 15 of 24 shooting, 11 rebounds) and Jrue Holiday (41 points on 15 of 23 shooting, eight assists) and Rajon Rondo (16 assists). Whatâ€™s more, they made plenty of history along the way.
McCollum did his part on the offensive end, scoring 38 points on 15 of 22 shooting. But fellow backcourt mate Damian Lillard, itâ€™s safe to say, will face all sorts of scrutiny for the way his season came to an end. In the four games, Lillard averaged 18.5 points (35.2% shooting overall, 30% from three-point range) to go with 4.8Â assists, 4.5 rebounds and four turnovers.
The Pelicans, who lost DeMarcus Cousins to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in late January, led 58-56 at halftime but pulled away with a 42-point third quarter that included Davis scoring 19 points. The sixth-year big man was spectacular in the series, averaging 33 points (57% shooting), 12 rebounds, 2.8 blocks and 1.8 steals. Holiday, who has been one of the under-the-radar standouts so far,Â was right there with him (27.8 points points per on 56.8% shooting to go with 6.5 assists, four rebounds and 1.3 steals).
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