Chet Holmgren sets tone as Thunder roll Pelicans to take 2-0 series lead

Chet Holmgren and Jonas Valanciunas. One a bomber and shot blocker, the other a bruiser and board getter. A slender Minnesotan, a rugged Lithuanian. Two centers with contrasting styles and statures (and beards), who share nothing more in common than playing the same position.

Valanciunas would be the pick in a prize fight, but this is a playoff series.

Holmgren over Valanciunas in Game 2. Thunder over Pelicans in Game 2.

Oklahoma City routed New Orleans 124-92 on a night when the two bigs battled early.

Holmgren scored 13 of the Thunder’s first 23 points. He finished with 15 points in the first quarter — the highest-scoring first quarter of his career.

Valanciunas scored the Pelicans’ first 11 points, all coming in the first three minutes of the game.

TNT should’ve had a secondary broadcast with a camera fixated on Chet vs. Jonas, two humans with features befitting of their names.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren dunks against the New Orleans Pelicans.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Chet Holmgren dunks against the New Orleans Pelicans.

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Holmgren is a scraggly-bearded 21-year-old. Valanciunas, 10 years Holmgren’s elder, chops wood and shaves with the same ax.

The fight dramatically shifted in Holmgren’s favor in the second quarter. Valanciunas’ soft touch evaded him. Valanciunas backed down Holmgren, only to have his shot swatted by No. 7 in blue.

Holmgren’s chest is going to match his jersey after taking blow after blow from Valanciunas, but a win should help ease Holmgren’s pain.

Holmgren was a team-high plus-32 in his 29 minutes. The rookie, in his second-career playoff game, had 26 points, seven rebounds and two blocks. He shot 9-of-13 from the floor, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

After scoring 11 points in the first three minutes, Valanciunas scored eight points over his final 20 minutes. He grabbed 20 rebounds in Game 1. Just seven in Game 2.

Advantage Holmgren. Game Thunder.

Joe Mussatto is a sports columnist for The Oklahoman. Have a story idea for Joe? Email him at

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Chet Holmgren sets tone as Thunder crush Pelicans in NBA playoffs