The New Orleans Pelicans have leveled their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns in the 2022 NBA playoffs. NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal believes they can win the series with Brandon Ingram leading the team.
Ingram took matters into his own hands in Game 2 at the Footprint Center, registering a game-high 37 points to spur the Pelicans to a 125-114 victory. Added to that were 11 rebounds, nine assists, a steal, and a block.
The crew of ESPN's NBA Today got together to play a game called "Shaq or Whaq," with Big Shaq as a guest. Kendrick Perkins asked Shaquille if the Pelicans could win the series and the Hall of Famer said:
"It's all up to Mr. Ingram, my guy. I knew he could play, but he showed me something the other day. He showed me that, "Hey, give me the ball, move out the way let me go to work. Kinda like what Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett used to do, he took over the game. If he can give me three more games like this, he has to have a chance."
It is surprising to see how well the Pelicans are performing in the playoffs. Envisioning the Pelicans to win a game against the top-seeded Suns was unthinkable, but they have managed to pull it off.
Devin Booker's injury will undoubtedly play a role in the outcome of this series, but let's take nothing from the inspiring display the Pelicans are putting together.
For a team that has had one of the worst starts to the season and is now going toe-to-toe with the best team in the league, it is truly noteworthy.
Later tonight, the Pelicans will host the Suns at Smoothie King Center, and they will be oozing with confidence. Stealing a game away from home against a team with the best home record was undoubtedly a big win for the Pels.
Shaquille O'Neal has made a lot of bold predictions in the past
Towards the end of the regular season, the former Lakers star expressed his disappointment with the LA Lakers but believed that they would beat the Suns in the first-round matchup. While he was not confident in them making the play-in tournament, he said if they make it to the eighth seed then a Western Conference semifinal is guaranteed.
"So, I doubt they even make the play-in game. But if they do, they definitely have to win and they will face Phoenix in the first round. And then, if they make it to the eighth spot, they will beat Phoenix."
Unfortunately, we never got a chance to see the series play out as the Lakers finished 11th in the West. Before reaching the playoffs, they would have had to win two games in the play-in.