SACRAMENTO – The Trail Blazers had the Sacramento Kings under control for the first half of their game Tuesday night. But then they struggled in the third quarter and just about collapsed in the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter.
But somehow, Portland pulled it together and behind an incredible game from Jusuf Nurkic, recovered from a nine-point deficit with 3:09 to go in the final quarter to win in overtime, 113-108.
But the furious fourth-quarter comeback and calm shutdown of the Kings in overtime was nothing in comparison to what Nurkic, the seven-foot Portland center, did to the stat sheet.
He murdered it. Killed it. Annihilated it.
In 37:33, he made 5 of 10 shots from the field, 14 of 16 from the foul line, scored 24 points, hauled in 23 rebounds, had 7 assists, 5 steals and 5 blocks.
In the NBA, that’s called a five by five (5x5) – at least five in five different categories. And if you didn’t know what a five by five is, you aren’t alone. Even Nurkic didn’t seem to know. Or at least he tried to act that way.
And that’s fine because it’s much more rare than a triple-double. Anthony Davis is the only other NBA player to have chalked one up this season and Nic Batum is the only other Trail Blazer to have ever recorded one.
But Nurkic’s is also apparently the best one of all-time. Nobody has ever gotten a five by five with at least 20 points AND 20 rebounds.
When asked if he had ever heard of a five by five prior to getting one, Nurkic looked blankly at the questioner.
“Did I know what?” he said. “What? What is?”
When told, his smile flashed broadly across his face.
“Really?” he said. “Biggest one ever? I couldn’t believe it.
“Without my team I couldn’t do that. They help me out and I help them out. I’m just glad we win. With like three minutes to go we’re down 10 (actually 9), so we put ourselves in bad position but we come back and win the game.”
Nurkic has been on a tear recently, averaging 21.5 points and 13 rebounds over his last four games.
“Nurk’s been on a roll,” Coach Terry Stotts said. “The last four games he’s been a really effective player inside -- scoring, passing, rebounding. Tonight might be the best game he’s played as a Blazer. He did a little bit of everything.”
Damian Lillard, who was speaking very softly after the game, as he’s fighting off a heavy cold, credited Nukic’s mindset for the upturn in his output.
“He’s making the game easier for everybody when he plays that way,” Lillard said. “He’s scoring because he’s so much bigger, so skilled and when when they send two (to guard him) he’s making the right plays. I think part of it is just him getting fed over and over. He’s just getting a good rhythm.
“The other part is just him playing stronger and more physical. He isn’t worried about getting calls – he’s just playing through it. When his mind is right, those are the kinds of performances he’s capable of.”
The Blazers played with artful desperation down the stretch of the game. The Kings missed their last six shots in regulation and first eight of the overtime period. The home team went 1-11 from the floor in overtime.
Meanwhile, Lillard and CJ McCollum were knocking down tough shots. Lillard’s two layups inside the final 46.2 seconds tied it, then Maurice Harkless, Lillard and McCollum scored in extra period.
The Blazers needed just about every number Nurkic could find. Lillard and McCollum went a combined 1-14 from three-point range and were outscored by 20 in the fastbreak category.
But Nurkic was a difference-maker Tuesday night.