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Rylan Stiles | Oklahoma City Thunder Insider, Locked On Thunder Podcast

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence
The Truth Network Radio
April 30, 2024 5:32 am

Rylan Stiles | Oklahoma City Thunder Insider, Locked On Thunder Podcast

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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April 30, 2024 5:32 am

Oklahoma City Thunder Insider & Locked On Thunder host Rylan Stiles joins the show to highlight the team's sweep of the Pelicans, and gauge how far this young group can go.

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Beer imported by Crown Import, Chicago, Illinois. Despite their age, shown uncommon maturity and we look at this four game sweep. I think that you look back on it as the second sweep in franchise history and think everything was sunshine and rainbows. But outside of game number two, the Thunder had to battle through adversity. They did not have their fastball in any of these games, but they still were able to come up big in the clutch, and that becomes a tool for them. They have a variety of scores, not only SGA who does it night in and night out, but second year player Jalen Williams is able to go score in a timely fashion. In the fourth quarter, and they just have a knack for having guys step up.

Tonight was Josh Skitty, as it was in game three, who again hit four threes in the Bayou, where he plays really well. This sort of team is extremely fun, and they continue to buck trends. Where does that maturity come from? Who sets the tone for them? Well, I think you have to start with the head coach, and I think that Mark has done a great job of not limiting this team or putting expectations on this team, and he's planted the seeds for them to get to this point. One anecdote would be that throughout this season, the Thunder have rigidly not let SGA return to the game until about the seven minute mark in the fourth quarter. And in that time, they've had to figure out and navigate very close games without their MVP on the floor, putting a lot of the scoring stress on to Jalen Williams. On to Chet Holmgren, on to Josh Skitty, to prepare them for a moment like tonight where you do bring the MVP in at the 10 minute mark in the fourth quarter, but yet those other youngsters are still prepared to handle the pressures that come with needing a bucket down five in the fourth quarter of a closeout game. So even being meticulous like that throughout the course of the 82 game season, it comes from the head coach and stealing belief in not limiting a team that in the toughest competition you've ever seen, rallied off 57 wins and looks like they can compete with anybody. How much of a conversation is it?

And I don't mean internally generated, but externally. How often is this group reminded, you're the youngest in the league? Every single day they are reminded because every single day, Amy, they break another record. Today, they broke the record of being the youngest team in the NBA to win a playoff series. Two weeks ago, they were the youngest team in the NBA history to get number one seed.

And so every night there's a small anecdote like that that is just a big picture-wise story. But in the here and now, the Thunder players are trying to move past that and trying to win despite their inexperience. And if there's ever a team that can do it, it certainly seems like these guys who have been able to overachieve back to back seasons of 15 plus win improvements despite not being projected to do so. Rylan Stiles is with us from New Orleans where the Thunder fly under the radar as the top seed, but they take out the Pelicans and are now awaiting the winner of Clippers and Mavericks.

It's after hours with Amy Lawrence. It's interesting that a top seed can get maybe less of the attention. I wonder too, Rylan, if it's partly because people are not super familiar with the roster. They may know SGA and as you point out, he may very well end up as the league MVP. But how many average basketball fans out there do you think could name the rest of the starting lineup? I think it'd be very, very few, especially if you try to make them spell with Jalen Williams within the starting five for Oklahoma City.

That would get a lot of people even on the national scale. I think part of it is that there's not enough exposure to the Thunder. They've not played on national TV a ton over the last two years. Their roster has changed, of course, over the last two years, getting Chet Holmgren back from injury.

That kept them out all of last year. And so when you look at this team, you've got to have crutches to fall on to. And the majority of the crutches nationally has been their inexperience and their rebounding flaws. When if you really dig into this team, they've been way more composed than way more veteran-laden teams all year long. And then with the rebounding issue, which is going to be brought up this week and forever more, they've been able to counteract it with their ability to get deflections and get out in transition and spark a fast break.

So I think that as this team climbs in the postseason, those narratives will get washed away and eventually this team will be discussed as the contender that they are. I wonder if this was potentially the turning point of game number four. Not that they were on the ropes or anything, but the Pelicans were up by five and there was the defense that you talk about. There was a contested shot even after a ball was stolen away from SGA. And the Thunder don't give up on the play. They end up preventing a shot at the other end. And so they kind of regain some momentum there. They're able to reel in the Pelicans. How much does defense have to do with their success? Yeah, I think the defense is a big thing and has been throughout this series, Amy. I mean, they won in four games, but what's allowed them to win this series has been their defense. They had a great shooting night in game two.

They could have played any team in the world and won that game too. But every other game has been based on them playing defense to buy them time. They were struggling offensively in game one, in game three for the most part, and in game four all night long. But because they're so talented defensively and they're able to frustrate their opponents and limit their opponents, the Pelicans were not able to score over 92 points in any of the four games this series. They did not get over 92 points and were held under 90 points twice in four games in a modern NBA, which is unheard of. And that defense allows you to stay in the game. And if you stay in the game in a star driven league with one of the brightest stars who's going to have back to back seasons now as top five MVP finisher SGA, you're going to win more often than not.

And that's what's happened over these last couple of games. I'm not sure if you know this Ryland, but earlier in my career, I in fact, when I was still in local radio, I worked in Oklahoma. It was before they had an NBA team. I remember how desperate fans at OKC were and not just Oklahoma City, but the state for a pro team really wanted a basketball team.

That was actually the early stages of Bricktown. And so they had the arena, but they didn't have a team. I just remember the joy, the excitement when the Thunder first landed in town, of course, coming from Seattle. So now that they're back in the playoffs, they've got this young group.

What's the passion? What's the fan support like with that Thunder base? Well, the passion is that right now at 2 a.m., there is a group of fans at the airport excited to just high five these players through a gate. And that's a testament to this fan base that the Thunder have gone through.

Now, two iterations where they were fantastic right out of the gate. And you thought this is just what NBA basketball is to a large community who had never been exposed to basketball. This is a football state through and through. And then you go through not only the pandemic where you can't go to games, but games that you don't want to watch anyway as they as they suffer the worst defeat in NBA history and Memphis. And then now you've come to the other side of it and you're still that same rabid fan base who's going to the airport.

Not to welcome you or I home, but to welcome the Thunder home and rocking, packing the house out. And it's visible both in the stadium and also on television. If you watch the Thunder's first two games at home and compare it to the rest of the playoff games, none of them even make enough noise on television to pop off the screen like OKC does. And a large part comes from their college roots like there's no other way to fan in Oklahoma than to do it the college style. And they do it big in OKC just for fun. I know Mavericks and Clippers are tied at two.

They don't play their game five until Wednesday because the NBA scheduling. But could you imagine Russell Westbrook with the Clippers? And he's been in on other teams. He's had a weird journey since he left OKC.

But how delicious would that be? The storylines of a Clippers series would be fantastic. I think that, you know, that the rest of Westbrook will always be beloved in Oklahoma. But you also know that Russell Westbrook is no stranger to poking the bear no matter who he's playing against. As he's famously said, his only friend on the court is Spalding. So Russell Westbrook would do something to antagonize Thunder fans.

How would they react to that? Then you have the Paul George aspect of it and the James Harden aspect of it. And the returners that come to OKC.

That would be from a storyline standpoint and narrative standpoint, one of the most fun series of the postseason. Rylan, what's the weakness of these Oklahoma City Thunder? I think that the weakness is going to be for this team if they cannot get out and run because a large portion of their success, despite the rebounding issues, have been, yeah, you might gain a net 13 in second chance points as the Republicans did in Game 1.

But on the same token, the Thunder will have a plus 13 in the in the fast break category. But as you know from watching NBA basketball for a long time and the playoff basketball especially, as you get deeper and deeper in the playoffs, the turnovers stop, the sloppy play stops, becomes a half court style. The Thunder have boasted a top five, half court offense. But defensively, can you still dig in for, at that point, 48 second possession as you continue to give up offensive rebounds after offensive rebounds? So the key to their success, despite the rebounding flaws, has been the transition opportunities.

Can they continue to duplicate that despite history, maybe suggesting that that doesn't happen a lot in the NBA playoffs? Such joy the Thunder give to Oklahoma fans. So we appreciate a couple of minutes with Rylan on Twitter at R-I-L-A-N underscore Stiles, S-T-I-L-E-S. Rylan Stiles, locked on Thunder podcast. He's the beat writer for the Oklahoma Thunder, Oklahoma City Thunder fan nation. So we appreciate a couple of minutes. Rylan, I know it's been a long day. Thank you for joining us from New Orleans. Thank you for having me. I think actually meeting someone who was not vaccinated and now has a lifelong struggle with a childhood disease really cemented for me that it's super important that we as parents continue to vaccinate our children. Talk to your pediatrician or visit Y vaccines dot com. Brought to you by Merck. Fight responsibly, beer imported by Crown Import, Chicago, Illinois.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-04-30 06:51:26 / 2024-04-30 06:56:48 / 5

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