Pacers star Domantas Sabonis joins Shaq, Wilt Chamberlain with 25-rebound triple-double
MINNEAPOLIS — There wasn't a celebration Monday.
No water poured over Domantas Sabonis' head when he made it back to the visiting locker room at Target Center. No game ball tucked away in his bag for safe keeping. No coach in his ear telling him what he'd just pulled off.
When Sabonis found out he was the first NBA player to record at least 25 rebounds in a triple-double since Shaquille O'Neal (24 points, 28 rebounds, 15 blocks) in 1993, per StateMuse, it was because the IndyStar informed him following Indiana's gut-wrenching 100-98 loss at Minnesota.
"It's amazing obviously. It's really cool. I didn't know that," Sabonis said. "It would've been a lot better if we got the win, you know? That's the main focus for us now at this point in the season."
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Sabonis' soft voice, which doesn't fit his 6-foot-11, 240-pound frame, almost sounded apathetic about his historic outing. He didn't even crack a smile as his eyes glanced over a stat sheet that on one hand laid out his 16 points, 10 assists and career-high 25 rebounds — becoming the first player in franchise history to have a 20-rebound triple-double, per Basketball Reference — and on the other hand detailed his team's NBA-high seventh loss by four points or less this season. Boston is next on the list with four close losses.
It's a game the Pacers "should have won," according to point guard Malcolm Brogdon, who scored a team-high 25 points. And although they didn't, and they're eager to put Monday's defeat behind them, perhaps they should pause for a moment to appreciate Sabonis' herculean effort even in defeat.
The 6-foot-11 Lithuanian would never ask for recognition, but his performance in front of 14,191 fans at Target Center catapulted him into rarefied air.
Sabonis is the 15th player in NBA history to record a triple-double with at least 25 rebounds, joining Bill Bridges and Maurice Lucas, as well as Hall of Famers O'Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Elvin Hayes, Maurice Stokes, Wes Unsled, Elgin Baylor, Billy Cunningham, Jerry Lucas, Bob Pettit, Hakeem Olajuwon and Nate Thurmond. Of course, like seemingly every Chamberlain feat, he blew everyone else out of the water with 37 25-rebound triple-doubles, which is more than the rest of the field combined (25).
"First off, congrats. I think that's really dope," said teammate Justin Holiday, who scored 15 points. "Domas is a force down there. It looks a lot different than some other guys. Obviously he's not the same size as Shaq, but at the same time to be in the same sentence as Shaq and doing that and not being nowhere near his size shows how good you are. How dominant you are. How much he's really, really concentrated on helping us. It's not like Domas goes out there and tries to get 25 rebounds for himself. He's trying to help our team.
"I hate to sound like I'm underwhelmed by it. I'm not. This is just what Domas does. Yes, (25 rebounds) is a high number, but I'm not surprised by it."
Indiana was without starting center Myles Turner, who missed his first game of the season with a non-COVID-19 illness. Absent the league leader in blocks, Pacers coach Rick Carlisle opted to start backup point guard T.J. McConnell in a small-ball lineup, adding to Sabonis' workload in the frontcourt.
The two-time all-star answered the call with eight points, six assists and 15 rebounds in the first half alone.
"He's a tremendous player," Carlisle said. "With as tough as our season has been this year, I don't know what we would do without him."
Sabonis grabbed the second-most rebounds in a single game in Pacers NBA history, tying Dan Roundfield, who snagged 25 rebounds in 1977. Herb Williams sits atop the record book with 29 rebounds in 1989.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, Sabonis is the first player to register 10 assists and 25 rebounds in an NBA game since Maurice Lucas in 1980. Four of Sabonis' rebounds were on the offensive glass.
"You just gotta go get it," Sabonis said. "You gotta have a knack for where the ball is gonna go. You gotta know that if you shoot it from the corner, most likely it's gonna go to the opposite side. (Former Indiana assistant) Bill Bayno, when he was here with us, he really helped me early on to box out from the inside on offense. That really puts the defense in a bad position (so we) can get some easier offensive ones. It just gets extra possessions for our team."
Sabonis now has 14 career triple-doubles. His most unforgettable one came on a night he'd rather forget, but hopefully when the sting of Monday's loss wears off, he'll be able to deservedly pat himself on the back.