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NBA ICYMI: Some Superheroes Wear Masks

Everything you need to know about Tuesday in the NBA

NBA: Boston Celtics at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Everything you need to know from Tuesday’s slate.


The Dark Knight Re-Rises

In 2012, after suffering a broken bone in his jaw, Kyrie Irving went off for a career-high 41 points at Madison Square Garden against the Knicks (and Jason Kidd!) while donning a matte black mask. After getting hit by teammate Aron Baynes in the face last week, Irving, who was diagnosed with a broken bone in his face and missed Sunday’s game against the Raptors, returned to New York wearing a new mask—this time a clear one, and this time inside Barclays Center, not MSG.

Like a blacksmith forging iron in the fire, Kyrie repeatedly took his mask off during his stints on the bench and every time a break in play occurred. (Despite his obvious discomfort, he will reportedly have to wear it for two weeks.) The mask didn’t deter him, however, from dropping 25 points in 29 minutes and having the game-sealing steal that led to this alley-oop dagger between Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, the fruits of what would’ve been the Nets’ last two high first-rounders had they not made the KG–Paul Pierce trade. (Shouts to Billy King.)

All five Celtics starters, including Brown and Tatum, scored in double digits as Boston won its 13th straight, a streak that comes after the team lost Gordon Hayward to injury and its first two games of the season.

During the streak, Al Horford has missed games, Marcus Morris has missed games, and even Kyrie missed a game. Yet Brad Stevens has worked miracles with whatever roster he has had on a given day. It seems as if patchwork success is almost his strength, as he’s doing more with less and figuring out a way to use every inch of his bench—from Daniel Theis to Semi Ojeleye—to the team’s advantage. It’s wizardry from a universally praised coach, and indicative of a level of talent that should spook the rest of the league when it even considers what Stevens would be able to do with Hayward in tow.

For now, however, they have turned a middling defense from last season into the best in the league despite losing Avery Bradley. And they’ve been able to make the offense thrive by getting contributions from different players on any given night. It’s the perfect recipe for a long winning streak, which will get its biggest test yet on Thursday against the Warriors.

The Packers Should Give Spencer Dinwiddie a Call

The Raptors and Rockets Switch Bodies for a Night

One hundred and three points after three quarters; 129 points by the final buzzer; 46.7 percent from 3; 28 assists; a victory. It’s a line that would fit the Warriors and the Rockets like a glove. But on Tuesday night, the Raptors played their opponents’ game and soundly beat them at it on their way to a 129-113 victory in Houston.

Toronto took nine fewer 3s than its long-range-happy opponent, but made two more than the Rockets did. The Raptors got to the line 42 times, and most notably, Kyle Lowry awoke from his slumber and scored 19 points and shot 10 free throws, which was nearly half the number he had shot the entire season before Tuesday. DeMar DeRozan kept up his usual volume by dropping in a team-high 27, but the Raptors only overcame James Harden’s 38 thanks to their bench, which held a 50-23 edge fueled by C.J. Miles’s 19 points, including six 3s. Even standout rookie OG Anunoby, who got the start, got in on the abnormal scoring night:

It was a complete game for an Eastern Conference team not thought to be up to par to compete with the cream of the West’s crop. But for a freaky night, the Raptors were, keeping pace with the Rockets and ultimately outlasting them both on the court, and afterward, on Twitter.

Fire those tweets off while you can, I guess.

Somebody Tell Dwight He’s Not at a Live Snake Show

The LaMarcus Aldridge Redemption Tour Continues

If Kawhi Leonard is the transcendent talent who turns the Spurs from good to great, then Aldridge has proved to be the serviceable substitute that’s keeping San Antonio good enough while Kawhi nurses a hamstring injury. Aldridge finished with a season-high 32 points in the Spurs’ 97-91 victory over the Mavs on Tuesday—his second 30-point game this season. Last season, he had only one game of 30 points or more.

Here’s more: 14 games in, Aldridge is already more than halfway to his total for 20-point games from last season, with 11 such contests. Should the Spurs vault to the top of the West by season’s end, they’ll likely have Kawhi to thank for getting them there, but they’ll also owe a debt to Aldridge for keeping them afloat.

Meet DeMar DeRozan’s Invisible Friends

(Sports superstition is very real. Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.)

Jaylen Brown for Dunk Contest President

On Sunday, Counting Crows—yes, that Counting Crows—decided to provide Basketball Twitter with some anecdotal fodder by sharing a story about Jaylen Brown’s … political chops?

Brown retweeted it. But on Tuesday, he chuckled and said he hadn’t really thought about going into politics or talked about it with Crows lead singer Adam Duritz, though he added: “People say I should do that all the time.” While I’m all for an NBA player broadening his interests after what Brown did on the Barclays court, I think his calling is clear.

Get this guy to the dunk contest. Speaking of dunk contests …

Both Dunks and J’s for DSJ

The highlight below will circulate on Twitter and social media for a brief, vapid moment. It’s another to add to the reel that Dennis Smith Jr. will populate heavily by the end of his rookie campaign.

But in a 97-91 loss to the Spurs on Tuesday night, Smith displayed his complete arsenal, tallying a career-high 27 points, five 3s, and six rebounds. For all the talk around Smith lately thanks to what LeBron James said about him, Smith is living up to the high praise. And while the Knicks seem content with Frank Ntilikina, Smith is going to open eyes wide for many games to come.

Watch Out for Dejounte