The Phoenix Suns, who finished the regular season with the best record in the NBA (64-14), face the New Orleans Pelicans, who eliminated the Los Angeles Clippers.
Hedgeout.net Team previews the series and picks the winner, as Game 1 takes place on Sunday in Phoenix.
The Phoenix Suns have their sights set on returning to the NBA Finals. After losing to the Milwaukee Bucks last year, they now want to to go all the way and claim the title.
The first opponent in their quest for a second straight championship run will be the New Orleans Pelicans.
The Pelicans are coming off impressive victories over the San Antonio Spurs (103-113) and the Los Angeles Clippers (105-101) to reach the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2018.
New Orleans won eight of its final 13 regular-season games to reach the play-in round and qualified for the playoffs after starting the season 1-12.
However, they are now facing the toughest challenge of the season, as they have to beat the Suns four times.
For its part, Phoenix won the season series 3-1. With a franchise-best 64-18, they comfortably earned the home-court advantage for as long as they advance through the playoffs.
Led by Devin Booker and Chris Paul, the Suns have been unstoppable on both ends all season long. A No. 8 seed has beaten a No. 1 just five times and I don’t expect this to happen this year. My pick is the Phoenix Suns will sweep the series (4-0).
The Phoenix Suns finished a historic regular season run with a franchise-record 64 wins and, in my opinion, they are the clear-cut favorite to win the NBA title this season.
Entering the first round, they will face the New Orleans Pelicans, who had to beat the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers to get to the postseason.
The Pels made some great strides as a team, if we take into consideration that they played all season without superstar Zion Williamson.
They made a great trade bringing in CJ McCollum, who was one of the main reasons they made the postseason and saw Brandon Ingram becoming even more polished on the offensive end.
New Orleans finished 13-10 in the last 23 games of the season, while they were Top-10 in offensive rating with 117.3 points. However, the Suns are a different beast.
They outscored opponents by an NBA-best 7.8 points per 100 possessions, having the third-best Def Rtg in the league with 106.8 points.
More importantly, they beat opponents by 33.4 points per 100 possessions in the clutch, having a 33-9 record in games the team was leading or trailing by five points or fewer in the last five minutes.
Anyway, I expect the almighty Suns to finish the series in four games (4-0), as Devin Booker and Chris Paul will be too much for the Pelicans.
The Phoenix Suns (64-18), the team with the best record in the NBA this year, are facing the New Orleans Pelicans (36-46), who just managed to get past the Los Angeles Clippers for the last position of the Western Conference playoffs.
In my point of view, this will be a clear sweep for Phoenix. Phoenix won the season series (3-1) and outclasses New Orleans in almost every statistic category. Chris Paul, Deandre Ayton and Devin Booker are playing at top speed since last year.
On the other hand, the Pelicans, who have built the team and placed all hopes around Zion Williamson for the post Anthony Davis era, have played all year without their superstar. Bandon Ingram and CJ McCollum stepped up, but still this will not be enough for the Pelicans.
This was the best they could do for the 2021-2022 season. Phoenix will sweep the series (4-0).
The Phoenix Suns seek to defend their Western Conference title. They had the best record this season (64-18) and sky is the limit for this team.
Early on, Monty Williams’ guys were focused 100% on what they could not achieve last year: winning the NBA Championship.
For their part, the New Orleans Pelicans (36-46) made it to the playoffs after two hard-fought play-in tournament victories (113-103 vs the San Antonio Spurs and 105-101 vs the Los Angeles Clippers).
They faced a rough start of the season, but still they managed to finish ninth. Zion Williamson failed to compete and key player Brandon Ingram (averaging 22.7 points) missed 27 games.
The Suns won the season series against Pelicans (3-1). I think that Phoenix will go all the way this time. It seems impossible that Pelicans could be an obstacle. The Suns will sweep this series (4-0).
I think this is probably the easiest series of the Western Conference. We have a strong favorite, which, in fact, can reach the end of the road.
Phoenix has been probably the most stable and impressive team over the last two years, regardless of the result (the Finals defeat to the Bucks last year).
They play amazing basketball, they are really good players and they can win everywhere, no matter their condition.
After the second place in the 2020/21 season, they now clinched the playoffs earlier than anyone else, won the first spot and the home-court advantage for as long as they advance through the playoffs.
In my eyes, the Suns can reach the Finals again and this time win the championship too. If they avoid serious injuries, they’ll try to win what they lost last year.
So, the Pelicans can’t be a serious problem for them. This doesn’t make them a bad team. Instead, they had a good winning course in the last months.
Especially after CJ McCollum’s arrival, they competed in the playoffs and won the 8th spot through the play-in tournament, where they defeated the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers.
But, having the Suns against them, it looks almost impossible to reach even the Conference semis.
The season series ended with a 3-1 win for Phoenix. In New Orleans, they know their job is really difficult, but they’ll try to do their best.
A good prediction here is a -2.5 series handicap for Phoenix. We can find this option in an odd near 1.50. I can’t see the Pelicans win two games here. So I think it’s a safe bet. A 4-1 series win for the Suns is more than possible.