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NBA scores 2016: The kids are going to be alright

The NBA’s future will be fine, and we can see it happening as we speak.

NBA: Washington Wizards at Milwaukee Bucks Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

A jammed-packed 14-game slate for the NBA was everything we could have asked for. No one will play on Saturday leading into league’s premiere Christmas Day games — the schedule’s right here, featuring Warriors-Cavaliers (2:30 p.m. ET) as the headliner — but Friday gave us more than enough basketball to tide us over.

The best presents all came from the young kids, too. Jon Bois once painted a fictional picture that basketball would die because everyone being drafted turned out to be incapable of actually playing basketball. That might not be a real concern, of course, but it is reassuring to see how bright the future is when the young stars are shining already.

We’re talking about players like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker, the former who scored 39 points on 12-of-19 shooting on Friday, plus eight rebounds and six assists for good measure. At 14-14 and currently holding the No. 7 seed, the Bucks are already doing alright about their playoff goals. Add Khris Middleton to the mix, and this team looks like one that could actually challenge Cleveland’s hegemony.

Really. It might (probably) won’t happen this year, but the Bucks are coming. They have Giannis, a real contender to LeBron James and who can throw down dunks like this.

The Timberwolves are, in some ways, the spiritual partner to the Bucks in the Western Conference, one of just two teams with three players averaging more than 20 points per game. (It’s Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, and the other team is the Cavaliers.) LaVine’s progress has been the grandest of all of them this year, and his 40-point game with seven triples proves it.

Minnesota hasn’t fared well this season, as we all know, but they are a future powerhouse waiting to happen. Give them time. Let Tom Thibodeau instill those defensive values he became famous for. Allow a transcendent player like Towns to simply temper his expectations and now expect himself to carry the whole roster.

Anthony Davis set a career high with 22 rebounds, going along with his 28 points. He’s still a 23 year old, regardless what’s happening with his team. Joel Embiid scored 27 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Russell Westbrook dropped a 45-point triple double (11 rebounds, 11 assists). Harrison Barnes hit a game-winning shot to go with his 24 points as he continues to surpass all expectations anyone had for him in Dallas.

All these players are or will rule the NBA as we grow past our LeBron’s and Dirk Nowitzki’s, and they’re all amazing. Nobody’s saying differently, but these young guys are making sure you know.

DIRK’S BACK

The Big Ol’ German finally returned for Dallas after playing in just five games this season, and he looked incredible. Here was his first made shot.

Playing just the first half, Nowitzki ended up with 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting in just 14 minutes.

Don’t look now, but Elfrid Payton is figuring it out

The third-year point guard for the Magic has already set a new career-high in points twice in December, and he nearly did it again on Friday with 25 points on 11-of-16 shooting with nine assists. Since Dec. 6, he’s averaging 15 points on 52-percent shooting from the floor while knocking down 38 percent of his threes and dishing 6.7 assists per game.

When Payton’s on, which has been often recently, he’s just a great all-around guard. Shooting is still his biggest weakness, but he keeps taking open looks and they’re going in more frequently now. He’s not the most explosive player when he prowls to the rim, but he’s patient, happy with a pass to an open jumper shooter if that’s all the defense gives him.

Payton has mostly been known for his bed hair extremism, but this is a great stretch for the 22-year-old. Orlando is still still starting D.J. Augustine, but Payton’s earning more and more minutes.

Friday’s best play

The Mavericks won by two.

More from Friday

Stan Van Gundy could only stomp and scream at a perfect play.

Steph making fun of KD’s Eurostep layup

Aw, LeBron brought $1.3 million cash to someone who won his game show.

You saw the dunk above, but a reminder: here’s Giannis’ stank face and it’s terrifying.

Friday’s scores

Grizzlies 115, Rockets 109 (Grizzly Bear Blues recap | The Dream Shake recap)

Hornets 103, Bulls 91 (At the Hive recap | Blog a Bull recap)

Magic 109, Lakers 90 (Orlando Pinstriped Post recap | Silver Screen & Roll recap)

Cavaliers 119, Nets 99 (Fear the Sword recap | Nets Daily recap)

Thunder 117, Celtics 112 (Welcome to Loud City recap | Celtics Blog recap)

Warriors 119, Pistons 113 (Golden State of Mind recap | Detroit Bad Boys recap)

Bucks 123, Wizards 96 (Brew Hoop recap | Bullets Forever recap)

Pelicans 91, Heat 87 (The Bird Writes recap | Hot Hot Hoops recap)

Kings 109, Timberwolves 105 (Sactown Royalty recap | Canis Hoopus recap)

Hawks 109, Nuggets 108 (Peachtree Hoops recap | Denver Stiffs recap)

Suns 123, 76ers 116 (Bright Side of the Sun recap | Liberty Ballers recap)

Raptors 104, Jazz 98 (Raptors HQ recap | SLC Dunk recap)

Spurs 110, Trail Blazers 90 (Pounding the Rock recap | Blazer’s Edge recap)

Mavericks 90, Clippers 88 (Mavs Moneyball recap | Clips Nation recap)