The Miami Heat were led by an old and new LeBron James on Feb. 27. James returned to the Heat with a new look a week after suffering a broken nose, as he debuted an all black mask to protect himself. Yet it was the same old James who ensured that the New York Knicks couldn't protect themselves, as the Heat breezed to a 108-82 win at full strength.
The Heat likely would have been fine without James, as the Knicks are sinking and dealing with the even worse distraction of Raymond Felton's gun charges. Felton also made a comeback of sorts on Feb. 27, yet his first game since his arrest didn't go as well, as he went 1-for-7 with just two points.
James was about 15 times better, racking up 31 points with no more broken body parts to go with it. Dwayne Wade was a big help as well, chipping in 23 points on a 10-for-13 shooting night. However, the entire Miami team was on fire from the floor, shooting over 60 percent while New York only hit over 37 percent of its shots.
Once the Heat pulled away with a 32-14 advantage over the Knicks in the third quarter, it was business as usual. If not for the mask, it would have been no different than any other game between a championship contender and a team teetering on a total collapse.
James joked to the Associated Press on Feb. 26 that he had been developing a mask with Marvel and DC Comics. Indeed, the Batman and Bane jokes were easy to make all night once he showed his new "menacing" look, as coach Erik Spoelstra called it.
To Miami, James is already enough of a superhero -- and a super villain to the rest of the league. He hardly needs a mask to complete the transformation, especially since he and the Heat are transforming into their championship/MVP form right on cue.
With the Heat on a six-game winning streak both with and without James, they will get to menace the Orlando Magic and Charlotte Bobcats to start the month of March. By the time they visit much tougher opponents like the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs next week, James should be unmasked -- as if that may make a difference either way.