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NBA: Daigneault talks up Thunder maturity after series sweep of Pelicans

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Oklahoma City Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said his players possess maturity beyond their years after they wrapped up a Western Conference first-round sweep of the New Orleans Pelicans.

A strong fourth quarter featuring an 18-2 run got the Thunder over the line on Monday, a 97-89 win at Smoothie King Center capping a 4-0 series triumph.

MVP finalist Shai Gilgeous-Alexander joined Jalen Williams in scoring 24 points while Chet Holmgren tacked on 14 as Oklahoma City won a playoff series for the first time since 2016, when they went all the way to the Western Conference finals only to lose to the Golden State Warriors.

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Daigneault, who was crowned NBA Coach of the Year on Sunday for guiding a young Thunder team to the top seed in the West, hailed his players’ professionalism after the victory.

“We have a committed team,” Daigneault said. “I think a lot of times with the age of the team, you can make assumptions about the stage that the players are in their careers.

“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.”

Gilgeous-Alexander added: “To win basketball games, a lot goes into it. We just know those little things that come with winning and we do them every opportunity we get.”

With a hamstring injury ruling New Orleans’ leading scorer Zion Williamson out of all four games, the Pelicans didn’t manage more than 92 points in a single game in the series, having averaged 115.1 through the regular season.

Coach Willie Green was pleased with the fight shown by his short-handed team, however.

“I loved our fight and the way we battled tonight,” Green said. “That’s a special group in that locker room.

“What I told them is that there’s no other group that we would rather get on that floor and compete with than that group. They poured it out tonight. Unfortunately, we came up short.”

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