MIAMI — Forward LeBron James wore a new, clear mask to protect his broken nose, but it did not change much of anything as the two-time defending NBA champion Miami Heat defeated the Orlando Magic 112-98 on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.
It was the seventh win in a row for the Heat (42-14), who entered Saturday trailing the Indiana Pacers by two games in the battle for the best record in the Eastern Conference.
The Heat have won nine straight in their series against the Magic and are a season-high 28 games above .500.
James, who complied with the NBA’s wishes and discarded the black mask he debuted on Thursday against the New York Knicks, scored seven points less than his average against the Magic but nearly had a triple-double. He finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.
Forward Chris Bosh (17 points in 18 minutes) and guard Dwyane Wade (game-high 24 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the field) also starred for the Heat, who never trailed after the first quarter in a relatively easy victory.
The Magic (18-43), who lost for the sixth time in the past eight games, were led by forward Tobias Harris (20 points) and center Nikola Vucevic (18 points, 10 rebounds).
Orlando guard Victor Oladipo, who came in averaging 13.9 points, scored 10 points. Before the game, he drew praise from Magic coach Jacque Vaughn, who talked about his defense, toughness and improved decision-making.
Meanwhile, among other highlights for the Heat was the play of reserve center Greg Oden, who had a season-high eight points, all of them in the second quarter.
The Heat struggled defensively in the first quarter, when there were eight lead changes and Orlando shot 54.2 percent from the floor.
But the Heat managed a 32-30 lead after the first, thanks to 11 points by Bosh and overall team shooting of 64.7 percent.
The Heat extended their lead in the second quarter and took at 61-53 advantage into halftime. Miami shot 58.8 percent from the field in the quarter and was led by Wade’s 10 points.
Orlando was held to 35 percent shooting from the floor in the second quarter.
Miami put the game away in the third quarter, posting an 89-73 lead. James had 10 points in the quarter and the Heat outshot the Magic 57.1 percent to 31.3 percent from the field.
NOTES: Magic G Arron Afflalo is out with an ankle injury. … Heat F Shane Battier on F LeBron James wearing a black mask on Thursday, a look that quickly became a fan favorite: “Only LeBron can make breaking your nose look cool.” … The Heat lost out on free-agent Fs Caron Butler and Danny Granger, who chose the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Clippers, respectively, after they had their contracts bought out by their previous teams. The Heat reportedly were especially interested in Butler, a former Miami player. … For Magic fans looking ahead to next season, Orlando is currently projected to get the third pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, which could be converted into a player such as Kansas SF Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky PF Julius Randle or Oklahoma State PG Marcus Smart. … The Heat concludes its three-game homestand on Monday against Charlotte. After that, Miami has a challenging three-game road trip: Houston, San Antonio and Chicago. … Orlando starts a two-game homestand on Sunday against Philadelphia.
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