Triple-doubles gone wild — Halfway snapshot — Utah angst

Friday, March 5th, 2021

  The Opening Tip

  • The Bucks and Grizzlies played a fun back-and-forth game yesterday. 
  • The Utah Jazz are taking heat from all angles right now. 
  • A snapshot of the East and West standings heading into All-Star Weekend.

This weekend's must-see (and only) game

Graphic via NBA.com

1. The basketball gods are handing out triple-doubles

The triple-double used to be sacred enough that Ricky Davis tried to trade his dignity for one.

On March 16, 2003, needing a single rebound to complete the statistical accomplishment, he received an inbounds pass in the final seconds of a blowout and purposely missed a shot on his own basket. The opposing team took exception and gave him a hard foul, all for a move the stat-keepers deemed unworthy of a rebound. He finished with a line of 28 points, 12 assists and … nine rebounds.

The attempt failed but the intent was clear -- a triple-double meant something. Now, 18 years later, they come a dime a triple-dozen.

Look what happened on Wednesday, a ho-hum night in the league: 

  • Detroit’s Dennis Smith had … 10 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists.
  • Detroit’s Mason Plumlee had … 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. 
  • Indiana’s T.J. McConnell had … 16 points, 13 assists and 10 steals. 

So … two average players on the same team got one, and McConnell came off the bench to get one with steals, and that’s not to mention James Harden’s 29 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists on the same night.

  • In 2011-12, there were 18 triple-doubles in all. (The season was 66 games long.) Two nights ago, there were four. 
  • For random reference, Hall of Famer John Stockton played 1,504 regular season games and never got a triple-double. He finished his career with one, which came in the playoffs. 

Conversely, McConnell came off the bench and waltzed into one. So far in 2020-21, there have been 70 triple-doubles, which would be on-pace for most ever over the course of an 82-game schedule. When Ricky Davis shot on his own basket, in ‘02-03, there were 42 triple-doubles the whole season. Scarcity breeds desperation.

Here’s the year-by-year breakdown, since 2010-11:

(Data via landofbasketball.com)

The big spike came in 2016-17, when the number of triple-doubles jumped from 75 the year before to 117. That can be directly tied to two players -- Russell Westbrook and Harden -- who were unleashed that season as high-usage one-man bands. Once considered a modern impossibility, Westbrook averaged a triple-double that season (and for the next two), while Harden -- 29.1-8.1-11.2 -- came close.

Those two -- who are both second in triple-doubles in Wizards and Nets franchise history, respectively, after 27 and 23 games, respectively -- walked so Mason Plumlee could get 10 assists.

2. Daily GIF: Ja Morant gets the lead, Jrue Holiday gets the win

The Bucks beat the Grizzlies last night, 111-110, behind Jrue Holiday’s game-winner GIF’d above, which negated Ja Morant’s would-have-been game-winner right before.

Milwaukee (22-14) has been the strangest/streakiest team in the league this season.

Here are the Bucks last 17 results:

  • W, W, W, W, W, L, L, L, L, L, W, W, W, W, W, L, W.    

With Holiday back from his bout with COVID, perhaps they can string some wins together and make a run at the top seed in the East, for which they stand only two games behind.

3. Trivia time

The Jazz has had three All-Stars in one season one time, in 1988-89. Who were they?

Hint: Mountain Man.

Answers at the bottom.

4. Utah is getting picked on at an alarming rate  

People like Vernon Maxwell have always had it out for Utah and the Jazz -- see tweet above -- but lately the tenor has been cranked up a few notches.

Last night on Inside the NBA, All-Star captains LeBron and Kevin Durant drafted* their teams, which somehow devolved into a roast of the Utah Jazz.

First, Jazz All-Stars Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert were drafted second-to-last and last, respectively. At one point, LeBron said he "needed" a big, then drafted Domantas Sabonis instead of Gobert.

When Chuck called Durant and LeBron out for “Utah slander,” LeBron responded with a refreshingly candid (and brutally honest) counter, which probably did not make anyone from Utah feel better:
 

“There's no slander to the Utah Jazz. You guys got to understand -- just like in video games growing up, we never played with Utah. Even as great as Karl Malone and John Stockton was, we never picked those guys in video games.”

Utah, which passionately whined until the Utes came home on Wednesday after an overtime loss to the 76ers, is already moody.  (Donovan Mitchell, after the loss, said, “This whole refereeing stuff. … We’re nice, we don’t complain, like, we don’t get frustrated, we fight through things, and the fact that we continually get screwed, in a way, by this. You know? We won this game, in my personal opinion.”) And so are the team’s fans, who roam Twitter looking for fights because of memes like this one.

For a 27-9 No. 1 seed in the West, Utah isn’t getting much respect right now. Last night’s TNT segment couldn’t have helped -- if they even get TNT out there. (Sorry.)

*Watch it -- it’s an illuminating look at who the most popular players are within the league itself.   

5. The East & West standings entering All-Star Weekend

In the East: 

  1. 76ers, 24-12
  2. Nets, 24-13
  3. Bucks, 22-14
  4. Celtics, 19-17
  5. Knicks, 19-18
  6. Heat, 18-18
  7. Hornets, 17-18
  8. Raptors, 17-19
  9. Bulls, 16-18
  10. Pacers, 16-19
  11. Hawks, 16-20
  12. Wizards, 14-20
  13. Cavaliers, 14-22
  14. Magic, 13-23
  15. Pistons, 10-26

In the West:   

  1. Jazz, 27-9
  2. Suns, 24-11
  3. Lakers, 24-13
  4. Clippers, 24-14
  5. Trail Blazers, 21-14
  6. Nuggets, 21-15
  7. Spurs, 18-14
  8. Mavericks, 18-16
  9. Warriors, 19-18
  10. Grizzlies, 16-16
  11. Pelicans, 15-21
  12. Thunder, 15-21
  13. Kings, 14-22
  14. Rockets, 11-23
  15. Timberwolves, 7-29

Three things: 

  1. The Celtics nearly combusted a week ago and still find themselves in the fourth spot in the East, three games out of the third spot, which isn't a compliment but an indictment on the conference. 
  2. The Clippers have lost three in a row, including one last night to the Wizards, who are capable only of beating the best teams in the league. 
  3. Since the Timberwolves’ Twitter account tweeted this on Nov. 14, 2019, they’ve gone 19-70. 

6.  Quick hits

  • Klay’s brother Trayce hit a 449-foot home run yesterday for the Diamondbacks.
  • We found the worst shot in NBA history. 
  • This is going to sound blasphemous, but Payton Pritchard made a Nash-esque pass last night. 
  • Some people interpreted the Bucks’ “sanitizer cam” in a different way than intended. 
  • Kevin Garnett raged upon Wolves owner Glen Taylor on Instagram yesterday, which means KG is unlikely to buy the Wolves.
  • Jared Sullinger -- and everyone who has watched a Celtics game this year -- misses Tommy.

7.  Off the press

Trivia answer: John Stockton, Karl Malone, Mark Eaton.


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