Hawks’ Clint Capela matches Shaquille O’Neal with historically-dominant interior performance

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When the Houston Rockets decided to go all-in on their small-ball experiment last season, one of the big moves they made was trading away Clint Capela, who ended up with the Atlanta Hawks. But because of an injury and everything being shut down by the pandemic, Capela played very little basketball last year, and didn’t make his debut with the Hawks until this season.

It didn’t take him long to show why Atlanta was eager to bring him in as an interior presence. On Wednesday night, Capela turned in a historic performance, putting up 27 points, a career-high 26 rebounds and five blocks in the Hawks’ 123-115 overtime win over the Detroit Pistons

In doing so, Capela became the first player to put up at least 25 points, 25 rebounds and five blocks since Shaquille O’Neal back in 2004. The only other players to accomplish that feat in the past 35 seasons are Dikembe Mutombo, Patrick Ewing and Hakeem Olajuwon, which puts the Swiss big man in some pretty elite company. 

And it wasn’t like Capela was just chasing stats in a blowout. Along with entering the record books, he came up huge down the stretch in regulation. With the Hawks trailing by two, Trae Young drove inside to try to make something happen, and Capela made a smart cut to find the open space. Young gave him the ball and he hammered it home to tie the game and send things to OT, where the Hawks eventually pulled away. 

In truth, the rest of Capela’s highlights aren’t all that exciting, as he was doing a lot of dirty work in the paint like scrapping for offensive rebounds, converting putbacks, etc. Save for rare nights like this, those type of plays usually don’t make headlines, but they do win games, as the young Hawks found out against the Pistons.