The Heat and Magic play tonight at 7:30 ET in Miami for Florida bragging rights. Our 3-on-3 crew weighs in.
1. LeBron's mask is ...
Israel Gutierrez: But a memory. With the league requesting LeBron go to a clear mask, and LeBron knowing that nose protection isn't worth fighting the league over, it seems the black mask will be a one-game deal. As long as his light, clear version of the mask is available to him, he'll wear the less-cool version. Who knows, maybe that black mask becomes something of a collector's item.
Tom Haberstroh: A Halloween best-seller for NBA fans next October. Part of me wants him to go Rip Hamilton style and make that a permanent thing, but I also understand a black jersey makes it all work. Maybe Space Jam II wasn't meant to be and The Mask II is really his calling. Of course, Jamie Kennedy has to ruin everything.
Brian Windhorst: A great side distraction to break up the monotony of the season. Sure the fans loved it but so did his teammates. A team in a long season needs such relief. Sort of like what the dunk show in Phoenix a few weeks ago provided.
2. Dwyane Wade's recent play reveals ...
Gutierrez: That Wade's and the Heat's season-long plan to keep him as healthy as possible is working. Last year at this time, Wade was playing at a similar level. It wasn't until a knee bruise late in the 27-game win streak that Wade's play dropped off. This year, the idea is to keep him at this level. It's still possible he could get hurt again this year, but clearly the plan remains on a positive track.
Haberstroh: Not much. We already knew that when he's healthy, he's still Dwyane Wade. I still don't think it matters too much in the long run. Really, will we remember this hot stretch for Wade come May or June? Doubtful.
Windhorst: He's still a top-flight player, one of the best guards in the league. But we already knew that. What no one, including Wade, knows is how his body will be in the late rounds of the playoffs. And that is really all that matters.
3. The Heat's approach to the No 1 seed should be ...
Gutierrez: Exactly as it is now: Nabbing it would be a benefit of playing playoff-level basketball. The Heat aren't playing for the top seed, per se, but know they very well could secure it if they continue to play at this level. And if that happens, Miami will know they've dented the Pacers' confidence. That would be an additional reward for the Heat.
Haberstroh: If it happens in the context of ensuring Wade's healthy, it's icing on the cake. Otherwise, the smart play is to give Wade rest even if it means a couple games lost in the standings. The potential reward of a healthy Wade come playoff time is far worth more than the off chance that they play a Game 7 in Miami.
Windhorst: Get it. They can downplay it all they want, but there's no doubt about its value. Not just in the East but against the West leaders, too. They have closed the gap from their relatively sluggish start to the season and the top overall seed is for the taking. It's not more important than health but it's a close second.