T.J. McConnell isn’t exactly synonymous with NBA history. On a night in which multiple historical milestones are met, you’d probably expect it to have been a starter that made that history. But on Wednesday, McConnell came off of the bench for the Pacers and delivered one of the most memorable defensive performances in NBA history.
Entering Wednesday, only 72 players in NBA history had managed to accumulate nine steals over the course of a game. McConnell managed to do so, coming off of the bench, in the first half alone.
McConnell finished the game with 16 points, 13 assists and 10 steals, giving him only the 11th triple-double with steals in NBA history. The last player to do so was Draymond Green, but as he did so with rebounds rather than points, McConnell was the first player to post a points-steals-assists triple-double since Mookie Blaylock did in 1998. Oh, and as the cherry on top? McConnell did not miss a shot in the win over the Indiana Pacers. He made all eight of his field goals without attempt a free-throw.
While McConnell coming off of the bench to deliver such a statistical marvel is surprising, the idea that he would post historic steal numbers makes sense given his playing style. McConnell leads the NBA with a steal rate of 3.4 percent, and despite playing less than 25 minutes per game, entered Wednesday ranked fourth in the NBA in steals. By adding 10 more to his ledger, he’s jumped to 62 on the season, passing Nikola Jokic and Fred VanVleet at 58. Whether or not he’ll be able to hold his lead considering his disadvantage in terms of minutes remains to be seen, but the fact that he even has that lead to begin with is virtually unprecedented for a reserve. McConnell has been posting historic steal numbers all season, and Wednesday was just the cherry on top.