Since first round series in the NBA playoffs were expanded to a best-of-seven format in 2003, there have been 24 teams who recorded sweeps of their opponent and advanced to the second round. This past Saturday evening, the New Orleans Pelicans became the 25th and they’ll go down as the lone squad to accomplish the feat during this postseason.
If you’re curious to learn what history says about teams that get off to 4-0 postseason starts and particularly whether this bodes well for the Pelicans chances to at least wind up in the Western Conference Finals, the results are mixed. On the one hand, 19 of these 24 teams moved past the second round. That’s really good. On the other, and likely more applicable, only one of the four teams seeded third or lower advanced, and both fifth seeded teams (the only lower seeds to pull off first round sweeps) ended up both losing in six games in the second round — an outcome many are predicting for Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday and company against the Golden State Warriors.
- 2006 Mavericks, a fourth seed, advanced to the NBA Finals, losing to the Heat, 2-4
- 2007 Bulls, a fifth seed, advanced to second round, losing to the Pistons, 2-4
- 2011 Celtics, a third seed, advanced to second round, losing to the Heat, 1-4
- 2015 Wizards, a fifth seed, advanced to second round, losing to the Hawks, 2-4
Before pointing to the 2006 Dallas team as proof in some argument, realize that group went 60-22 in the regular season. They wound up as the fourth seed because San Antonio had edged them out in the Southwest Division, and in those days, division winners were automatically awarded the highest seeds in the playoffs.
That said, a total of four different series isn’t an overwhelming amount of evidence that should ruin the Pelicans odds of winning another series in these playoffs. In my opinion, it’s more important to factor the most recent performances by New Orleans and their next opponent, results from head-to-head meetings in the regular season and analyzing how well the Pelicans can potentially matchup against the next foe — something we’ll do as soon as the Pelicans next opponent is in writing.