Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren joins exclusive club in NBA playoff debut

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As far as rookies go, Chet Holmgren waited a long time to make his NBA playoff debut. And he surely didn’t disappoint.

The former No. 2 pick scored 15 points for the Oklahoma City Thunder in Sunday’s 94-92 win over the New Orleans Pelicans, adding 11 rebounds and five blocks in a Game 1 win at the Paycom Center in Oklahoma City.

In doing so, he became just the fifth player in NBA history to post that stat line in their playoff debut – joining some legendary names in the process.

Holmgren impresses in NBA playoffs debut  

While Holmgren’s offensive numbers from Sunday don’t leap off the page, his impact on both ends of the court was evident from the opening tip.

On the Pelicans’ second possession of the game, Holmgren rejected Herbert Jones at the rim before collecting the rebound and eventually drilling OKC’s first shot from 26 feet:

By the second quarter, the rookie had already tied Steven Adams’ franchise record for most blocks in a playoff debut (three). Holmgren picked up his fourth block in the fourth quarter, denying Larry Nance Jr. on a crucial possession with his team trailing by two with 2:27 left.

Moments later, he delivered his signature play of the game, swatting Nance’s layup in the final minute to help seal Game 1 for the top-seeded Thunder.

With that block, Holmgren became just the ninth player in NBA history to post five blocks in their playoff debut – adding his name to a list littered with elite defenders and Hall of Famers:

Of those players, only Shaquille O’Neal, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Kevin Kunnert also scored 15 points and 10 rebounds in their postseason debut. And only Holmgren and Robinson did so as a rookie.

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Perhaps most impressively, Holmgren also became the only player in NBA history – not just among rookies – to finish with five blocks and two made 3-pointers in their first playoff game.

Holmgren adding to stellar rookie resume

While Holmgren wasn’t the most impressive rookie in the NBA this season – that honor belongs to San Antonio Spurs phenom Victor Wembanyama – the former No. 2 pick certainly made his presence felt for the top seed in the West in his first full season on the court.

Holmgren was one of just 17 players to play in all 82 games this season after missing his initial rookie campaign with injury in 2022-23. The former Gonzaga star boasted the fourth-highest scoring average (16.5 PPG) of those 17 players and was the fourth rookie in the last 40 years to start every game at center, per Brett Usher.

He finished the regular season ranked fifth in the league in blocks per game (2.3) and second in block rate (7.3%), trailing only fellow rookie Wembanyama (10%), and he was named as one of three finalists for NBA Rookie of the Year on Sunday.
  
He’ll have a chance to make more history on Wednesday, when the Thunder host the Pelicans for Game 2. That game tips off at 9:30 p.m. ET on TNT.

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