Miami Heat

March 2, 2014

Miami Heat cruises past Orlando Magic as LeBron James swaps masks

LeBron James donned a clear mask and scored 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists in three quarters of work in a rout of the Magic.

These games between the Heat and Magic used to mean something. No one can quite remember those days, though. It has been so long.

If the rivalry that once existed between Florida’s NBA franchises isn’t dead already, it’s on life support. With little to no effort — and absolutely no enthusiasm — the Heat casually dispatched the Magic 112-98 on Saturday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami (42-14) swept its four-game series against Orlando this season, and the Heat is 10-2 against teams in the Southeast Division.

The Heat has won seven consecutive games, which currently is the longest winning streak in the NBA. Of course, overshadowing everything for the second game in a row was LeBron James’ mask. After wearing a black protective mold on Thursday, he went with a transparent mask against the Magic (18-43). The NBA asked for the change and James obliged.

“It’s getting better every day,” James said of his nose. “It’s still tender, obviously, not even being a little over a week, so I’m going to continue to wear the protective mask until I feel like my nose is ready…but it doesn’t stop me from doing what I normally do.”

No, only the pathetic Orlando Magic can stop James from doing what he normally does, and that’s only because James doesn’t even have to play a full game against the dregs of the Eastern Conference.

With the Heat leading 89-73 after the first third quarter, James watched the entire final quarter from the bench. The extra rest ended James’ streak of games with at least 30 points ended at five. He scored 20 points against the Magic, going 8 of 12 from the field, and also had nine rebounds and seven assists.

After allowing 30 points in the first quarter, the Heat buckled down defensively and quickly ran away with the game. The Heat’s largest lead was 23 points with the entire fourth quarter basically serving as garbage time.

“We were a little spotty in the first quarter,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “For the first 10 or 15 minutes we were sparing rather than competing. After that it was active and, again, aggressively offensively.”

After scoring over 66 points in the paint against the Knicks on Thursday, the Heat returned with another strong effort inside, hammering home 52 points in the paint against the Magic. The Heat went 20 of 24 from the free-throw line, which helped negate some sloppy turnovers. The Magic scored 24 points off of 17 turnovers by the Heat.

Dwyane Wade led the Heat with 24 points, going 10 of 14 from the field. He has scored at least 23 points in his last four games.

“I’m just getting in the groove,” Wade said. “I’m in one of those grooves right now, and I’m taking my shots and some of them are wide open and some of them are not, but I’m just taking shots that I’m comfortable with.”

Chris Bosh played just 18 minutes due to foul trouble, but still finished with 17 points. He was 5 of 8 from the field, 2 of 3 from three-point range and 5 of 5 from the free-throw line.

“I told him to enjoy his day off,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “He better come with a high-energy game on Monday.”

The Heat went 21 of 34 from the field in the first half, extending its streak of consecutive halves shooting at least 60 percent to three. Bosh had a pair of three-pointers in the first quarter to give him 11 points in the game’s first nine minutes. Wade then scored 10 points in the second quarter to extend the Heat’s lead to 61-53 in the first half.

The game’s best highlight happened early. With large pockets of the lower bowl at AmericanAirlines Arena still empty, Mario Chalmers initiated a fast break while sitting near midcourt after diving for a loose ball that ended with an alley-oop from James to Wade. Chalmers finished with another solid game, going 2 of 3 from the field for seven points to go along with three assists and two rebounds in 26 minutes.

Greg Oden had another impressive outing. He scored eight points and had four rebounds in 13 minutes.

“The biggest victory for Greg Oden is that he’s available and in uniform,” Spoelstra said.

Michael Beasley played extended minutes in the blowout, scoring eight points in 22 minutes. He also had four rebounds, three blocks and three steals.

“He’s schooling himself on everything to be reliable to our system and he has come a long way,” Spoelstra said.

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