Triple-Double Watch Week 17: LeBron’s epic week, T.J. McConnell sneaks in

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia 76ers Guard T.J. McConnell (12) reacts to the crowd after being fouled in the second half during the game between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers on February 12, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 12: Philadelphia 76ers Guard T.J. McConnell (12) reacts to the crowd after being fouled in the second half during the game between the New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers on February 12, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Welcome to Triple-Double Watch, a weekly check-in on everyone’s favorite arbitrary milestone of round, base-ten numbers.

I desperately wanted to lead with T.J. McConnell’s Herculean Monday night in which he notched the first, and maybe the last, triple-double of his career, but I just can’t do it. (Wait, I kind of just did.) McConnell will be discussed more later, but LeBron James deserves top honors on this edition after he absolutely dominated the league this week with two exhilarating triple-doubles and nearly a third.

He should not still have to prove this, but let there be no doubt…LeBron James is the best player in the world right now. After James’ team got outscored by 34 second-half points in Orlando the previous night, he turned in a heavenly performance back in Cleveland on Wednesday. The Akron native went toe to toe with Jimmy Butler, ultimately guiding his Cavs to a 140-138 overtime victory thanks to 37 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists, and a number of key plays down the stretch.

The game, which featured the last appearances for four departing Cavaliers (Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, and Derrick Rose), was ended by an 18-foot jump shot courtesy of James. In addition, James’ game-tying 3-pointer with 45 seconds left in regulation kept the game going. Although he contributed six fourth-quarter assists, that game-tying trey was his first made field goal of the period. Yet he still took and made that shot. While he misfired on a potential game-winner on the next possession, The Chosen One took matters into his own hands in overtime, scoring nine of his team’s 11 points in the decisive period, assisting the only basket he didn’t score, and blocking Butler’s floater with 1.3 seconds remaining (not to mention, the aforementioned game-winning bucket). James played 48 minutes of 53 minutes, as Cleveland escaped with the win.

Believe it or not, I think I’m just as impressed with James’ performance Friday night in Atlanta, right after nearly half his teammates were traded in various deadline deals. The roster was depleted that night. Teammates John Holland, Ante Zizic, and London Perrantes were forced into action after logging 17, 41, and 3 minutes, respectively, in their entire NBA careers. Holland actually played 14 minutes on Friday alone. Rookie Cedi Osman played 39 minutes after averaging 7.9 minutes through his first 42 career games. Little-used Jose Calderon even had to log 20 minutes. All that aside, James electrified in all facets of the game, registering 22 points, 12 rebounds, 19 assists, a mere three turnovers, and a comfortable win. For James, 19 marked a career-high in assists. Embarrassingly for the Hawks, they compiled only 20 total assists as a team Friday night.

As if all that wasn’t enough, James helped to spoil Paul Pierce’s retirement ceremony game by dropping 24-8-10 on the Celtics. Had he played any of the fourth quarter or any more during the other quarters, it’s likely he would have grabbed the two rebounds needed to complete yet another triple-double. James’ two triple-doubles this week bring him to a season total of 10, just six behind triple-double artist Russell Westbrook. Westbrook started the triple-double week with a near hit, falling one rebound and one assist shy of triple-double magic in a blowout road over the Warriors.

Saturday in Brooklyn, Rajon Rondo recorded his second triple-double of the season, while also scoring a season-high 25 points. By the next afternoon, he was already sitting courtside at the Celtics-Cavaliers game, where James nearly got his third TD of the week. Rondo last scored 25 points more than 10 months ago as a member of the Chicago Bulls and hadn’t topped 18 in any game this season. Before his scoring outburst Saturday, the Pelicans point guard was averaging 7.1 points per contest.

Now to T.J. McConnell’s magical triple-double in a home win over the Knicks. First, it should be noted that it was the 76ers’ first franchise triple-double off the bench. Secondly, this marked the second straight week that the Knicks surrendered a player’s first career-double (Terry Rozier did it last week in Boston). McConnell, who stands at 6-foot-2, grabbed his TD-sealing 10th rebound with 1:05 left in the fourth quarter, causing his teammates on the bench to go crazy. The undrafted third-year pro out of the University of Arizona came into the game averaging 7.4 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.3 rebounds; seven rebounds had been his season high.

For what it’s worth, McConnell has been close before. He had seven points, nine rebounds, and 12 assists in his fourth career game, a loss to Milwaukee back in 2015-16. Last season, the 25-year-old Pennsylvania native fell one assist short, producing 12 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists in a win in Detroit. McConnell has acknowledged during recent interviews that he plays so hard largely because he never knows when his time in the NBA will cease.

Next: The Encyclopedia of Modern Moves

Here’s what his head coach, Brett Brown, had to say after the game: “You respect him, you really respect him. He just plays so hard. He’s a wonderful lesson for so many basketball players in relation to what determination, perseverance, toughness can bring you to. We’ve seen him grow, he continues to get better, and tonight he was incredible.”

All four TD-achieving players also led their teams to a win this week, bringing TD players’ record to 45-17 this season. In other words, a team has won 72.6 percent of the team this season when one of its players has secured a triple-double. Beginning Jan. 24, 14 of the last 16 triple-doubles have brought wins along with them.