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NBA ICYMI: It’s Good to Be Back

Bobby Portis nearly goes for 40 (sorry, bud), the Wizards keep eating against the Cavs, and vintage Dwight shows up as the league returns from the extended All-Star break

NBA: Orlando Magic at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

All the need-to-know info from the first post-All-Star slate.

Live by the Portis, Die by the Portis

Exactly 10 years to the day after Bulls reserve Ben Gordon scored 37 points, Bulls reserve Bobby Portis scored 38. It was the most points for a Chicago player off the bench since that game in 2008; it was, by far, Portis’s career high.

The rest of the frontcourt stayed quiet, especially Lauri Markkanen. It was like the rookie and his backup swapped their shots: Portis hit six of his nine 3-point attempts, while Lauri missed all five of his. Every part of his game was amplified, including his verve. Bobby Portis’s biggest hype man is Bobby Portis.

Here he is yelling “I’m going to get 40!”

As we all know, Portis did not reach 40. In fact, he tried five times in the final three minutes of Chicago’s 116-115 loss to Philadelphia, but ended with an L, instead. His final five shots, as follows: blocked by Joel Embiid, missed layup, missed 23-footer, missed tip shot, and, oh, right, missed WIDE-OPEN GAME-WINNING LAYUP.

Still, congratulations on a career high, Portis. Congratulations to the entire Bulls bench, really, which even without Portis’s 38 still put up more points than Philly’s second unit.

Leaps and Bounds and Bron

Kelly Oubre Jr. Gives the Leadership Washington Needs Without John Wall

That’s Oubre, a 22-year-old man, trying to untie new Cav Rodney Hood’s shoes.

The Wizards came undone, too, almost letting Cleveland come back from an 11-point deficit. But Washington blazes on without John Wall. His fill-in, Tomas Satoransky, finished with 17 points and eight assists, and the squad is now 8-2 without Wall after beating Cleveland, 110-103. Postgame, Bradley Beal reiterated their commitment to “everybody eats,” a motto they took seriously on Thursday by assisting on 29 of their 44 made shots.

Cleveland’s new members found out who gets to eat during a close game, too: LeBron went for 14 straight points in the fourth quarter, ending with a game-high 32 points, eight assists, and nine rebounds.

Dwight Night

Howard was boards-happy from start to finish in Charlotte’s 111-96 beatdown over Brooklyn. He had already bullied the rim into a double-double by the end of the first quarter, which Howard hasn’t done in over six years. Howard finished with 15 points and a season-high 24 rebounds; eight of those were offensive boards, more than all Nets starters combined grabbed on that end.

Move Over for Mudiay … or Trey Burke

Jeff Hornacek granted pissed-off New Yorkers half a wish on Thursday. Finally, with 23 games left, a young point guard will replace the old model. (Except, as is Knicks tradition, disappointment followed.) Emmanuel Mudiay—who is just two practices deep with N.Y. since the franchise acquired him from Denver—will take Jarrett Jack’s starting spot.

Rookie Frank Ntilikina is the people’s choice. Hornacek said Smokes was exhausted at this point in the season and dealing with an aggravated knee. Hornacek is doing an out-of-sync tango with the front office; they need to develop young talent, and he needs to keep his job. Ergo, starting Jack for so long—he’s opted for experienced, winning lineups. With Kristaps Porzingis out, that’s no longer flying.

So Mudiay started for the first time as a Knick in their 120-113 win against the Magic. He brought offerings—

—but ultimately, played seven fewer minutes than Frankie Smokes, anyway. The two combined for 15 points, eight rebounds, six assists, and far less relevant games than Trey Burke. That’s right, a Knicks point guard beside Jack, Mudiay, or Ntilikina scored a season-high, game-high 26 points on 22 shots in 30 minutes off the bench.

Whatever you expect from New York’s PG rotation, don’t. (Also, here’s my new favorite NBA stat to track: Mudiay is now 0-for-10 from the perimeter as a Knick. What comes first, Mudiay makes a 3 or John Wall gets subtweeted again by a teammate?)

A Theory About Steph Curry:

Blur all the faces and logos in this video—you’ll still know it’s Steph.

I have the same theory about his stat lines. In the Warriors’ 134-127 win over the Clippers: 44 points, 19 shot attempts, 14 that went in, eight 3-pointers, and nine assists. That’s his third 40-point game of the season and fifth with at least eight made 3s.

Freshman Blues

We know rookie hazing exists in the NBA because veterans share videos on social media. It’s usually just a major inconvenience, like being a personal, on-call Postmates driver for the rest of the team, or a major, yummy inconvenience, like filling his entire car with popcorn.

That’s child’s play. Watch Justin Jackson’s heroic, game-tying moment:

Now watch Russell Westbrook brutally yank it away from him:

That, my friends, is rookie hazing.