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NBA Playoff Preview: Pelicans try to eliminate Trail Blazers, advance to the Western Conference semifinals

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With a commanding 3-0 lead, New Orleans goes for the sweep of Portland.

NBA: Playoffs-Portland Trail Blazers at New Orleans Pelicans Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The Pelicans are on the threshold of franchise history.

Up three games to none on the Portland Trail Blazers, the New Orleans Pelicans are on the cusp of advancing to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time in their 16 years of existence. New Orleans is already in uncharted territory as they’re up 3-0 for the first time in their history. A win would give New Orleans their first ever sweep of an opponent, so like if this were a video game, the Pelicans have a chance to unlock an achievement.

While New Orleans aims for history, they’ll also have history on their side. Teams that are up 3-0 in an NBA playoff series are 127-0. That deficit has only been overcome five times in sports history: four times in the NHL and once when the Boston Red Sox famously came back against the Yankees in 2004.

The thing about history, though, is that there’s always a first time for everything. Just a month ago, we finally saw a 16-seed upset a 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament. #UMBC

Nobody ever wants to be on the wrong end of a famous collapse, so the Pelicans ought not to take anything for granted Saturday afternoon in the Smoothie King Center. Losing Game 4 may not change the outcome of the series, but losing means traveling back across the country to Portland and playing another game, just to travel back to New Orleans for either rest or, worst case scenario, a Game 6.

The calling card for the Pelicans this series has been a swarming defense to counteract Portland’s pick and rolls and healthy doses of Anthony Davis whom the Blazers are still without answer. Sprinkle in some stellar guard play from Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday, timely shooting by Nikola Mirotic, and to a lesser extent, from Ian Clark and Darius Miller, and you’ve got yourself a sweep.

The Pelicans need to treat Game 4 with as much focus and energy as Games 1-3 combined. The basketball world’s been singing the Pelicans’ praises this whole series so New Orleans needs to leave no doubt.

Go out, kick their ass one more time and move on. Don’t bother hopping on a plane and heading back to Portland.

I hear the weather’s going to be terrible anyway.

What: New Orleans Pelicans vs. Portland Trail Blazers

Where: Smoothie King Center

When: April 21, 2018, 4:00 pm Central

How: TNT, 99.5 FM WRNO