Starting 5: A grand return


Every morning, we will give you five things from the night before in the NBA to start your day.

1: Hola, Ricky

Genevieve Ross/AP/KIROTVMany NBA fans were gasping when they saw Ricky Rubio crumpled on the floor late in a game against the Lakers last February. It was one of those non-contact injuries where everyone who has watched sports just knew what it was.

Torn ACL.

All the fun was sucked out of the Timberwolves' season at that point. Fans were robbed of the point guard they waited so long for and had entertained them so thoroughly for the lockout-shortened season. No one was quite sure just how Rubio would come back and whether that flare and ability would still be there.

ACL injuries are no longer the death sentence they once were. Rubio would be back. He would likely regain all those skills and abilities soon.

He began that journey in earnest, coming back and playing for the first time since that fateful February day in Minnesota's 114-106 win over Dallas on Saturday.

Rubio played 18 minutes, scoring eight points and dishing out nine assists. And if you are wondering if the ability to see the floor was gone, he dished out a pass between his own and Elton Brand's legs for an assist.

Oh, yeah. He is back.

In the game itself, with Rubio limited in minutes tonight for his first game back, the Timberwolves needed to rally late to force overtime, sinking a basket late in regulation. It was then Andrei Kirilenko and Nikola Pekovic taking over to secure the victory.

Kirilenko scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Pekovic had 21 points and nine rebounds. Alexey Shved provided a dangerous trio of ball handlers to go along with J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour in the overtime period. Shved score 18 points to go along with six assists of his own.

2: Who is that masked man?

Elsa/Getty Images/ZimbioKyrie Irving was not supposed to play Saturday at Madison Square Garden after breaking his jaw the previous night against Milwaukee.

Yes, Irving was a day removed from breaking his jaw and he was out on the court for an NBA game against one of the league's best teams. This not too far removed from returning from an injury. And only a day after being fitted for mask to play in to protect said broken jaw. Those are reportedly not comfortable.

Irving may make it permanent a la Richard Hamilton if he keeps having performances like he had Saturday night.

The line? 41 points, 15 for 25 field goals, five assists and five rebounds. Beware the Phantom indeed.

Irving would be a clear starter for the All Star with the way he played before his injury. If he keeps up his play like this and makes every game a garden party, then Irving could be in line for a pretty strong year in his second season.

This might have been his first 40-point game in his career, but no one believes it will be his last.

Alas, the Knicks came out the winners 103-102 as Anderson Varejao split a pair of free throws late to send the game to overtime and keep Irving on the floor dicing up the Knicks defense.


Touchdown Drummond

Nate Robinson still climbing mountains

Get out of Blake's way!

4: Line of the Night: Zach Randolph — 25 points, 16 rebounds

Zach Randolph's post game should not be so amazing anymore. His ability to out-pivot and out muscle players in the post is really only comparable at this point to his adversary on Saturday night, Al Jefferson. Yet, when you see Randolph go to work, it is still just as impressive. So impressive in fact. Randolph helped break down Utah's defense in Memphis' 99-86 win Saturday at Energy Solutions Arena. His work was like his team's — methodical and efficient.

5:  You can quote me on that

A lot of us have been in this situation and situations in the playoffs. It's nothing new for us. That's what we have to do — guide the ship in crunch time.

Magic guard J.J. Redick after the Magic came back for a crunch time win in Charlott

It's about time we started becoming more consistent on defense. When we communicate, things happen like that.

Heat forward Chris Bosh after the Heat beat the Wizards 102-72

About Philip Rossman-Reich

Philip Rossman-Reich is the managing editor for Crossover Chronicles and Orlando Magic Daily. You can follow him on twitter @OMagicDaily