LeBron James swaps out mask as Heat swat away Magic

ESPNAPI_IMG_NO_ALTEXT_Value

MIAMI -- LeBron James caught an alley-oop flip from Dwyane Wade on a fast break, threw down a dunk and then headed up court with his arms spread like some superhero.

James can look the part, whether he's wearing a clear mask or a black one.

Switching to a clear protective cover at the NBA's request, James had 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists Saturday to help the Miami Heat earn their seventh consecutive victory by beating the Orlando Magic 112-98.

James dispensed with the black mask he wore Thursday when playing for the first time since he broke his nose.

"He was a clear-mask guy tonight," teammate Chris Bosh said. "He was just a regular dude, a regular citizen of Gotham."

Wade scored 24 points and Bosh 20 for the Heat, who shot 58 percent. Eleven players scored for the Heat, and their bench totaled 39 points.

James said league officials wanted him to wear something that would allow opponents to see his face. The newer mask seemed to bother James more than the black one did, and he frequently took it off when the clock was stopped.

"It's not comfortable," he said. "Having something on your face isn't comfortable, but it is what it is."

Before the game, James questioned the NBA's request for him to change masks.

"I don't know if I expected it, but I'm not surprised," he said . "It's not a league rule, but it's the league's request that you don't wear the black one. For the reasons that they told me, it didn't make sense to me. But hey, I'm just a player in this league and I will abide by this request -- I'm not even going to say rule, but request -- by the NBA."

While the mask was a nuisance and James' nose remained tender, neither hindered his performance.

"It's another challenge for a great player," coach Erik Spoelstra said. "His game is an aggressive, attacking game, and there's going to be contact. But coming off the injury, he has been as aggressive as he was before."

James' streak of five consecutive games with more than 30 points came to an end, but he took just 12 shots and played only 31 minutes.

"When you come out and take care of business, that's a reward," he said.

After sitting out a week because of his broken nose, he avoided another injury when he went stumbling into the third row after making a fast-break layup and settled in an unoccupied seat.

The Heat improved to 10-1 since Feb. 1, and they've won their past four games by an average of 19 points.

"Defensively we're flying around and we're communicating," James said. "And offensively, obviously we're playing at a high level."

The Heat completed a sweep of the four-game season series against their in-state rivals.

"They're an efficient team, the most efficient team in the NBA," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "That's done with LeBron setting up people, and you're getting shots that you want. You're not rushing."

The game was the first for the last-place Magic since they broke a 16-game road losing streak at Philadelphia on Wednesday. Tobias Harris led Orlando with 20 points, and Nikola Vucevic added 18.

With the Heat taking the lead for good early in the second quarter, Bosh played only 18 minutes, his lowest total since Nov. 16.

"I got a bunch of night-off jokes tonight," Bosh said. "I enjoyed it. Guys filled in and did their job."

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...