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Miami's masked marvel proves menacing in win

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Feb 27 2014 10:02:19 PM CST
Updated On: Feb 27 2014 11:48:03 PM CST
LeBron James, February 2014, mask

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

MIAMI -

Miami Heat forward LeBron James played his first game since suffering a broken nose last week and wore an intimidating-looking black mask not unlike something out of a Batman movie.

"I liked the look," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "It looked menacing."

Spoelstra also liked the results.

The Heat's masked man scored a game-high 31 points on Thursday night to lead Miami to a 108-82 victory over the New York Knicks at AmericanAirlines Arena.

James, who made 13 of 19 shots from the floor and 4 of 6 on foul shots, added four rebounds and four assists while being charged with just one turnover.

He has scored 30 or more points in three straight games.

"The most important thing was his aggressiveness," Spoelstra said. "He wasn't going to let a mask -- or an injury -- take away from his assertiveness. He was putting constant pressure on their defense. Every opportunity he had to attack the paint, he did.

"He didn't let up."

James was especially big in the third quarter. After the Knicks cut the Heat's lead to two points early in the quarter, Miami went on a 26-5 run to put the game away. James had 12 points during that surge.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade finished with 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field.

"The last three weeks have been terrific in terms of Dwyane's training," Spoelstra said. "I kidded with him the other day. He is here at our facility almost like an assistant coach, putting in the time behind the scenes.

"You are seeing it pay off for him. His legs are a lot stronger, a lot healthier. You are seeing the quick twitch."

James wore a mask for the second time in his career. He played with a clear mask in 2005 after he suffered a fractured cheekbone while he was with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Knicks were led by forward Carmelo Anthony, who had 29 points, and center Tyson Chandler, who added 19 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.

However, as a team, the Knicks shot just 37.3 percent from the floor. The player who struggled the most was rookie guard Tim Hardaway Jr., who was 2 of 15 from the floor, including 0 of 8 from 3-point range.

In the stands was his father -- former Heat guard Tim Hardaway.

"We haven't seen that from him all season," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said of Hardaway Jr. "He's been pretty consistent for a rookie. I don't know if coming to his hometown in Miami had anything to do with it -- he couldn't make a shot."

New York has its own player -- guard J.R. Smith -- using a mask. In addition, guard Pablo Prigioni took an elbow in the nose from Heat guard Norris Cole. However, Prigioni stayed in the game.

Thursday's game was also the first for Knicks point guard Ray Felton since he was arrested Tuesday and charged with criminal possession of a loaded firearm.

Felton, who had two points, five assists and three steals, reportedly is going through a divorce and his wife turned him in on the gun charge.

Miami (41-14) won its sixth in a row to remain two games behind the Indiana Pacers in the battle for the best record in the Eastern Conference. The Heat are 12-2 in their past 14 games.

The Knicks (21-37) lost their fourth in a row and fell for the 10th time in 12 games. They are 5 1/2 games behind the Atlanta Hawks for the eighth and final playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Miami led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Knicks cut the deficit to 55-50 at the break.

"In the first half, we felt pretty good," Anthony said. "But then they made that run, and we couldn't bounce back. I don't know if we got confused or what.

"(The Heat) is playing extremely well. You never know where (their attack) is coming from. But we gave up 66 points in the paint (to 36 for New York). We have to look at that."

NOTES: The Heat is rumored to have interest in F Caron Butler, who was released by the Milwaukee Bucks. ... G DeAndre Liggins, signed by the Heat to a 10-day contract on Tuesday after playing in the NBA Development League, was one of Miami's two inactives on Thursday, joining F James Jones. ... The Knicks' inactives because of injuries were F Andrea Bargnani, C Kenyon Martin (ankle) and G Iman Shumpert (knee). ... Of the three injured Knicks, Shumpert is the closest to returning. Shumpert is running but not yet cutting and is at least a week away from playing. .... The Knicks signed G Shannon Brown and F Earl Clark to 10-day contracts. They made the moves after releasing G Beno Udrih and F Metta World Peace. ... Miami's four-game homestand will end after Saturday's visit from the Orlando Magic and Monday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats. ... The Knicks return home to play the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.

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