Triple-doubles don't often get paired with NBA rookies, but they were a-flowin' during the Philadelphia 76ers' 126-125 double-overtime victory over the Orlando Magic Tuesday night.
As Michael Carter-Williams went head to head with Victor Oladipo, December's Rookie of the Month crown was already up for grabs. Oladipo was grasping for it following the announcement that MCW won the November award, but he came up just shy in the head-to-head battle.
Each rookie was fantastic, though.
Oladipo finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals, shooting 8-of-18 from the field and 10-of-12 at the charity stripe. Yet he was still just No. 2 on this historic night at Wells Fargo Center. That's because Carter-Williams joined him in the triple-double club with 27 points, 12 boards, 10 dimes and three steals while going 11-of-19 from the field and 4-of-7 at the stripe.
As USA Today's Sean Highkin points out, it's only the eighth time in NBA history that two trip-dubs have been recorded in the same game:
Only eight times in NBA history have two players recorded triple-doubles in the same game. Jason Kidd and Clyde Drexler have done it against each other twice, once in 1995 and 1997. Chris Webber and Gary Payton did it against each other in 2000. Kidd also did it against Jay Williams in 2002 and Tracy McGrady in 2003. Caron Butler and Baron Davis did it against each other in 2007.
Only two sets of teammates have ever had triple-doubles in the same game: Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen for the Chicago Bulls in 1989 and Kidd and Vince Carter for the New Jersey Nets in 2007.
But none of those players were rookies and it gets more impressive for this dynamic pair of first-year guards.
Since the 1985-86 season (which is how far back Basketball-Reference's data goes), only five players have recorded a triple-double during one of the first 20 games of his career:
- Tom Gugliotta, 1992: 19 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists
- Damon Stoudamire, 1995: 20 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists
- Jamaal Tinsley, 2001: 19 points, 11 rebounds, 23 assists
- Jay Williams, 2002: 26 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists
- John Wall, 2010: 19 points, 10 rebounds, 13 assists.
Well, the number has now grown to seven.
Just from their lines, it's tough to tell which player had the better game, especially because MCW coughed the ball up four times more often (seven turnovers to three).
They were each involved down the stretch, made big plays but also committed key errors. Both of them missed crucial free throws in overtime, and it was MCW with the biggest mistake of the night (he'd make up for it later). After an Oladipo miss at the charity stripe, the lanky point guard failed to corral the rebound and knocked it out of bounds instead.
Going into this hard-fought contest, it was already clear that they were both playing quite well. Here are their per-game stats over the five games prior:
Oladipo has been the better defender—yes, in spite of MCW's gaudy steals totals—and the more efficient scorer, even if he's been less involved than his rookie counterpart.
Now, back to this game.
Let's keep in mind that the Magic were playing without Jameer Nelson and Nikola Vucevic on the back end of a back-to-back set, so Oladipo's outing looks even more impressive. But he just couldn't hang with MCW as the game got tight.
Whereas Orlando turned to Glen Davis and Arron Afflalo—who exploded to join Carmelo Anthony, Paul George, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as a member of the 40-point club this season—during the key portion of this double-overtime contest, Philadelphia didn't shy away from its star rookie.
It was Carter-Williams who handled the ball down the stretch. It was Carter-Williams who was counted on to either provide a scoring boost or dish out a key assist. It was Carter-Williams who kept looking like a star once the minutes began piling up.
Starting in the fourth quarter, MCW just outpaced the rookie who was drafted nine spots ahead of him in June. As CSN Philadelphia's announcing team observed late in the final overtime period, it's tough to even remember a single mistake that the point guard made after the four quarter began.
The good plays were just that much better than the seven turnovers.
From the fourth quarter on, MCW recorded 11 points, five rebounds and five assists while shooting 4-of-8 from the field and 3-of-6 at the stripe. Oladipo contributed eight points, one rebound and five dimes on 2-of-5 shooting from the field and a 4-of-6 performance at the free-throw line.
Carter-Williams was just more involved, and he was unquestionably the key player for Philadelphia during the final stretch of the winning effort. Considering Evan Turner fouled out during the first overtime, MCW led the team in scoring and Brandon Davies' two assists were the only other dimes in the box score from the fourth quarter on, there was no doubt about that.
The same can't be said for Oladipo.
Afflalo (20 of his 43-point total) and Davis (13 of his 33 points) outscored him down the stretch, and the Magic often avoided putting the ball in his hands throughout key possessions. It's also worth noting that while Orlando were down three in point differential with Oladipo was on the court, Philadelphia was a plus-12 with their star rookie.
A pair of triple-doubles shows that this duo is going to be paired together for a long time. They'll be forever linked as members of the same draft class, but they also play in the same conference and line up in the backcourt.
Now they have a historic similarity also working in favor of this burgeoning rivalry.
Victor Oladipo will have plenty more opportunities to scoot ahead of Michael Carter-Williams in the Rookie of the Year race, even if he didn't do so during their second head-to-head matchup.
Who knows? Maybe it'll take another triple-double to do the trick.