3 takeaways from first-round series between Thunder and Pelicans

Apr 29, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2)
Apr 29, 2024; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; Oklahoma City Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (2) / Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
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A lot of historical records were broken after the OKC Thunder swept the New Orleans Pelicans in Game 4, 97-89, on the road. 

The youthful number-one seeds became the youngest team in NBA history to win a playoff series with an average age of 23 years, 343 days when weighted by playing time. Of course, they have also become the youngest squad to sweep a team in the NBA playoffs as well. 

All that came on top of being the youngest number-one seed in history. 

For Thunder headman and NBA Coach of the Year Mark Daigneualt, age is just a number with the quality the Thunder has been playing. 

"I think a lot of times the age of the team, you can make assumptions about the stage that the players are in their careers. But I've said all along, we have an uncommon group of people and players, and I think that's a huge reason why we're able to accomplish some of these things. They deserve all the credit."

Mark Daigneault

The Thunder never looked like an inexperienced young team in their series against the Pelicans. Frankly, they showed a youthful grit, and their marquee hardnose ethos on both ends of the floor to dominate and create history. 

As they enter their first Western Conference Semifinals matchup since 2016, Oklahoma City will have ample time to rest and regroup as they face a much tougher matchup. 

Until we find out more about their second-round foe, lets look back on the series that just was, as there are some significant takeaways from the first round.

Defense was as tough as nails

The defense has been the Thunder’s calling card throughout the series. 

In simple terms, they made it extremely tough for the Pelicans to execute and score. 

New Orleans did not reach 100 points once in this series. Heck, they never even scored as many as 93 or more. The Thunder held the Pelicans to 92 points in Game 1, 92 points in Game 2, 85 points in Game 3, and 89 points in Game 4. 

OKC also has posted the best defensive rating in the playoffs so far with 93.5 points per 100 possessions, attesting to the superb overall defense the team played in the four-game series. 

With all the missed shots they forced, the Thunder recorded the most defensive rebounds in the playoffs with 35.5, while tallying 8.0 steals per game. 

This was a collective effort for Oklahoma City. Players stepped up defensively and were locked in to stop the Pelicans from getting good looks. 

Lu Dort was a lethal point-of-attack defender against New Orleans’ Brandon Ingram; Jalen Williams provided versatility from all over the floor; Chet Holmgren, meanwhile, was the Thunder’s insurance at the rim, deterring shots that could have been easy looks if not for him. 

Most importantly, the schematic looks they gave to bother the Pelicans were outstanding. Defensive effort is hard to quantify, but it separates great teams from good ones.

As the saying goes, offense wins games, but defense wins championships.