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Heat 108, Knicks 82

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MIAMI — The masked man, forward LeBron James, returned to the lineup Thursday night and led the Miami Heat to a 108-82 victory over the New York Knicks at AmericanAirlines Arena.

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

Wearing an intimidating-looking black mask not unlike something out of a Batman movie, James had 31 points, rebounds and four assists in his first game since he was hurt last Thursday during a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Heat guard Dwyane Wade added 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting, but the star was James, who made 13 of 19 shots from the floor, showing no ill effects from the broken nose he suffered on a foul by Thunder forward Serge Ibaka.

Thursday marked the second time in his career that James played in a mask. He wore a clear mask in 2005 after he suffered a fractured cheekbone while playing for 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.

New York has its own player using a mask, guard J.R. Smith. 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 in his home.

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.

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 Tuesday after playing in the NBA Development League, was one of Miami’s two inactives Thursday, joining F James Jones. … The Knicks’ inactives due to 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 contest against the Charlotte Bobcats. … The Knicks return home Friday to play the Golden State Warriors.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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