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Did Marcus Morris Sub in for His Twin Brother, Markieff?

After Markieff went down with an ankle injury in Game 1, he looked healthy — maybe too healthy — in Game 2

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

In Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal between the Wizards and Celtics, Markieff Morris went down and stayed down after Al Horford’s foot undercut him on a shot attempt. He left the game with an ankle sprain after having played just 11 minutes, robbing Washington of one of its most versatile weapons. Judging from the way his ankle splayed to an unhealthy right angle, it seemed like he’d be out for some time.

Then, on Tuesday night, Morris played his best game of the playoffs, hitting his first four field goal attempts and finishing with 16 points, six rebounds, and some pretty assists. He showed no signs of injury.

Perhaps Markieff just made an amazing recovery. Or perhaps it was Markieff’s identical twin brother, Marcus, who plays for the eliminated Pistons, dressed up as Markieff. Marcus is healthy, unoccupied, and, well, looks exactly like Markieff when wearing a Markieff Morris jersey:

There are two types of identical twins. First, there are those who don’t appreciate the constant comparison to the person who shares their physical appearance and forge unique identities — think about Brook Lopez having normal hair while Robin Lopez has the Sideshow Bob look, or Tiki Barber playing running back and repeatedly dissing his teammates and leaving his pregnant wife for a younger woman and comparing the clandestine relationship to Anne Frank hiding from the Nazis and Ronde Barber playing defensive back, and, um, not making offensive comparisons.

And then there are the identical twins who make sure to do literally everything their sibling does — think of the Bryan brothers, who became the greatest doubles tennis partners of all time, formed a band together, married women who look the same, and discuss their investments while working out together.

The Morris twins are definitely in the latter camp. They went to Kansas together, signed a package deal in Phoenix and famously lived together and shared a mutual bank account. (Their mom speculated that when they got married, they would live in the same house with their wives.) In 2015, that strategy backfired when Markieff agreed to a deal well below his market value to stay with his brother only to look stupid when the Suns traded Marcus to the Pistons.

They’ve rarely had the opportunity to sub in for each other — either they were on the same team, or always playing at the same time. I suppose they could have pulled a Parent Trap and just been in different places pretending to be each other, but that wouldn’t have been particularly useful. With the Pistons done for the season and Markieff hurt, they had the perfect opportunity to take advantage of their twindom. Is it possible they did?

Point: They Admit to Having Done This Before

When the twins were on the Suns and Markieff got suspended for a game, a reporter asked Markieff about the prospect of playing in Marcus’s jersey. He said it had worked in the past.

“We did it before in AAU ball,” Markieff admitted in 2013. “It [the jersey switch] was on the bench. It happened real quick. He had hurt his ankle but I had fouled out. I gave them a little limp back in, like I was hurt and kept playing.”

One player was hurt. One was ineligible. So the ineligible one pretended to be hurt, and the hurt one sat. Fast-forward to 2017, when Marcus is ineligible to play and Markieff is hurt. The only thing missing was a fake limp.

Counterpoint: People Say They Can Tell Them Apart

People who know the Morrises claim they can identify them. Andy Joseph, who attended Kansas with the Morrises and covered them with the Arizona Republic and therefore is the journalism world’s foremost Morris expert, laid out the ways he could identify which one was which Tuesday night. I’ve been told that Markieff’s hair is thicker and Marcus’s face is rounder.

On the other hand: I say all those people are lying liars. They look the same. Stop pretending you’re smarter than us. I’m gonna subject these people to a blind taste test and give them two cups of Pepsi and they’ll insist one has a richer, more velvety mouthfeel.

Point: They Have THE SAME TATTOOS

They’ve spoken about their matching tats before, even letting fans decide their next joint tattoo. But it doesn’t quite hit you until you examine them together that, holy crap, they have the same tattoos.

I sorta lied when I said they have 100 percent identical tattoos — as a blog dedicated to tracking NBA players’ ink notes, there are at least two individual tattoos that are on only one sibling. But both of those are on the players’ chests, so neither would be visible during a game. Plus, if they’re really committed to the deception, couldn’t Marcus just Sharpie in the missing tats before the game? (People pointed out to me on Twitter that the Morrises have different-looking nipples. This was also not visible during the game, although with that information in hand, I demand the refs do a pregame nipple check for Game 3.)

Getting a matching tattoo is something people do — siblings, couples, even just friends. It shows you’re linked for life, or at least until you get somebody to ink something different over it. (Shout-out to Kenyon Martin getting his tattoo of Trina’s lips turned into a crown.)

But I’ve never heard of two people getting two full sleeves and an entire chest of tattoos together. These dudes saw the ending of The Prestige and were like “Wow, that’s a great idea.” Something nefarious is going on here.

Counterpoint: Markieff Is Taller

Markieff is 6-foot-10, and Marcus is only 6-foot-9. This is incredibly useful for telling them apart if they are standing next to each other, which sadly they were not Tuesday night. Which brings me to my next point:

Point: Both of Them Were Not in the Same Place

The Ringer was dedicated to solving this problem. My boss, Bill Simmons, suggested we give the person playing for the Wizards genetic testing to ensure it’s the right Morris twin.

And fellow writer Jason Concepcion suggested Marcus identify himself in a dated picture.

Unfortunately, I’ve gotta say both of my colleagues have proposed unhelpful solutions. Identical twins share extremely similar DNA that can make tests inconclusive, and even if Marcus posted a picture … would we really know it was Marcus?

While The Ringer will remain dedicated to cracking this case, I fear the only true way we could get to the bottom of this is by having both in the same place, and while Marcus was willing to show up for some games earlier in the playoffs, he was absent Tuesday night.

Counterpoint: They Have Different Playing Styles

If there is one thing in life Marcus and Markieff have differed on, it is basketball skill sets. Although it would be funny if they just followed each other around on the basketball court, it would have made the teams where they played together really awkward and easy to defend. So they developed slightly different talents.

Markieff is taller and likes to play inside — 33.2 percent of his shots are within five feet and he grabs 6.5 rebounds per game, while just 12.8 percent of Marcus’s shots are within five feet and he gets only 4.6 boards per game. Meanwhile Marcus is a better shooter — Joseph notes he has a quicker, more fluid release. Marcus took 4.5 3s per game this year and Markieff has taken just two per game for his career.

(AP Images)
(AP Images)

But they’re still very, very similar. Both averaged exactly 14.0 points per game this year. Marcus shot 33.1 percent from 3 this season, exactly matching Markieff’s career percentage. Marcus has a career average of 2.1 assists per 36 minutes, Markieff averages 2.3 per 36 minutes.

The player Tuesday night looked more like Markieff than Marcus. He grabbed six boards, his jumper took an eon, and he fouled out, something Markieff has done 16 times in his career and Marcus only six. It seems likely that we overestimated the extent of Markieff’s ankle injury, he fully recovered, and played well.

On the other hand: They have the same tattoos. Why the heck would you get the same tattoos as somebody if not to commit basketfraud?