LeBron James is playing at a level this season that forces us to come dangerously close to actually overrating him. Because a basketball game is the cumulative effort of all the players. It wasn't James scoring all 99 points by the Heat in their win over the Knicks on Sunday. Just 29. He didn't grab all 41 rebounds, just 11. Didn't dish all 20 assists for Miami, just seven. And he didn't defend every player.
He just made so many plays, it feels like it.
The Knicks were up double digits at halftime, and it looked like New York was on its way to its third blowout win over the reigning champs. And while Shane Battier, Dwyane Wade and a little bit of Chris Bosh helped in a big way, by the end of the game, it felt this simple:
LeBron James decided the game was over and made it so.
James nailed two huge three-pointers, one with Carmelo Anthony defending, blocked Tyson Chandler (after getting away with a blatant holding foul), then put back a rebound on the ensuing possession and, finally, landed the breakaway jam above when J.R. Smith went all J.R. Smith.
James has this ability now, where he can seize the momentum of the game and simply take it over. He did it for much of February, he did it against Memphis on Friday night and he did it in the Garden on Sunday. The Heat as a team are good enough to get them within range, and James has figured out from there how to use his multitude of talents, and I mean multitude, to finish it off.
Meanwhile, the Heat have won 14 straight and have an easy schedule coming up. Their lead over New York for the top seed in the East is now 7 1/2 games (and the Knicks have fallen behind Indiana by a half game).
New York had dominated Miami so convincingly in the first two meetings that even as the Knicks have slowly slid backwards, showing more and more of their weaknesses when the three-pointers weren't falling like rain, they held onto that as proof they were still title contenders. And this loss doesn't take them out of the running. It can still happen, if they get blisteringly hot from three, and if Anthony has an efficient game, and if Amar'e Stoudemire gives them 20-plus points consistently and if Wade has a bad series and if Bosh has a bad series and if Smith plays within himself as opposed to how he always plays ...
You get the picture.
But even if that happens, and as great a season as the Knicks have had, you still have to wonder.
Will any of it be enough if LeBron decides it's over?