Thunder praised for their 'resilience' in Game 1 win over Pelicans

New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One
New Orleans Pelicans v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

This season, the OKC Thunder claimed the number one seed in the Western Conference standings, becoming the youngest team to do so in league history with an average age of 23.9.

What makes this accomplishment all the more impressive is the fact that this collective unit has only three players in tow who have experienced playoff action in the past.

Nevertheless, their lack of participation under the bright lights of the NBA Postseason didn't seem to negatively impact them during Sunday's Game 1 against the eighth-seeded New Orleans Pelicans, as they grinded their way to an exhilarating 94-92 win.

Though there were many factors that helped pave the way toward the Thunder's first opening game victory since 2017-18, Andy Bailey of Bleacher Report summed up the main catalyst in their triumphant efforts against the visiting Pels in one word: Resilience.

OKC Thunder praised for their resilience in Game 1 win over Pelicans

"With just over three minutes left, the eighth seed took the lead on a Brandon Ingram bucket. After a two-minute stalemate, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored back-to-back buckets to reclaim control, and it didn't give it up again.

One of those makes for SGA was an and-one, but he finished the night with just seven free-throw attempts, shy of his regular-season average of 8.7. The Thunder took a total of 13, well short of the 21.5 they got per game before the playoffs.

The postseason is an entirely different ballgame, and though it may take some time for OKC to adjust, its resilience allowed it to survive a night that could have gone the other way."

Andy Bailey

As Bailey pointed out in his piece, the Pelicans certainly gave the top-seeded Thunder a run for their money during opening weekend, as they forced them into playing a more physical and unorthodox game than they've been used to participating in throughout this magical campaign.

Despite being the league leader in three-point percentage as a collective and Gilgeous-Alexander ranking number two in drawing fouls leading to free throw attempts, NOLA held Oklahoma City to a mere 31.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc and the MVP candidate to just seven attempts from the charity stripe.

Such unfamiliar play seemed to rattle the Thunder early on in the contest, and they even fell behind by as many as seven points in the first half.

Fortunately, despite being so young, Mark Daigneault's club refused to get overwhelmed, focusing on what they could control in the game and, in turn, clawed their way back for a late-game surge.

The team's resiliency played a major role in their ultimate win on the night, as they essentially played as poorly as they could for the vast majority of their first playoff game in four years and still managed to pull out the win.

Moving forward, fans should expect their play to improve while their mental fortitude to remain the same, for that will be the recipe for a series victory.