Kyrie Irving scores career-high 41 in black Zorro-like mask

In the end, the power of Zorro wasn’t quite enough to cool off the red-hot Knicks.

Kyrie Irving scored a career-high 41 points while sporting a black protective face mask.

Cavaliers second-year point guard Kyrie Irving sported a black protective mask over his face Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The new headwear didn’t seem to faze Irving, who poured in a career-high 41 points in Cleveland’s 103-102 loss to the New York Knicks.

Irving went 15-of-25 from the field, including 5-of-8 from three-point range, and added five assists and five rebounds just one night after breaking a bone in his jaw in a hard fall in Milwaukee. Irving was fitted for the mask Saturday morning and joined the Cavaliers in New York only about three hours before tip-off.

In brief comments before the game, Irving said the mask was “just precautionary.”.

Irving scored 17 points in the fourth quarter and got the Cavaliers within 102-101 with a pair of free throws with 10 seconds left. Steve Novak hit one of two free throws for the Knicks before Anderson Varejao could only sink one of two for Cleveland.

Raymond Felton had 25 points and Tyson Chandler 23 for New York, which won its fourth straight and ninth in 10 games despite playing without Carmelo Anthony, who sprained his left ankle Thursday against the Lakers.

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Even though the Cavaliers failed to get the win, Irving’s performance conjures up images of other masked players doing big things on the court.

Just last season, Kobe Bryant sported a mask for 11 games after Dwyane Wade accidentally broke Bryant’s nose in the All-Star Game. Bryant averaged 31.1 points with the mask and, like Irving, opted for the less-seen superhero-style black version.

Bryant also went with the more popular clear mask last season. Bryant actually autographed the mask before it was purchased at auction for $67,100, with the proceeds going to the Bryant Family Foundation. Bryant joked that he wanted to auction the headgear to “see if anybody’s dumb enough to buy that sweaty mask.” Of course someone was.

Perhaps the most famous mask in NBA history belongs to long-time guard Richard Hamilton, who started wearing his during the 2003-04 season after breaking his nose twice. Hamilton led the Pistons in scoring in 2003-04 as Detroit won their NBA title. The look has been Hamilton’s signature ever since, and the Bulls even adapted their uniform policy when Hamilton came to Chicago before last season.

Any discussion of Irving’s mask wouldn’t be complete without a look at Zorro, perhaps the most famous of all black mask-clad heroes. Antonio Banderas portrayed the dashing swashbuckler in 1998’s The Mask of Zorro and 2005’s The Legend of Zorro. According to Box Office Mojo, the two movies grossed over $140 million.

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Contributing: The Associated Press.

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