One day, two knees, and suddenly the whole NBA playoff picture has changed.
Miami's tough road through the East just added an express lane.
First Derrick Rose tears his ACL and is out for the rest of the playoffs.
Then the Knicks' best perimeter defender, Iman Shumpert, tears his as well, midway through the third quarter of a Miami blowout. He is expected to miss the next six to eight months after surgery.
Suddenly a potentially troublesome first-round matchup gets a little easier. And the top-seeded Bulls, who hoped to prove they're not just a one-man team, will have to do so without that one man.
Not that the Heat should need the help.
LeBron James alone should be enough to provide a ticket to the conference finals, as he was in Cleveland. Dwyane Wade is a Hall of Famer in waiting, and Chris Bosh is a seven-time All-Star. They have useful pieces like Udonis Haslem, Mario Chalmers and Shane Battier. This isn't LeBron trying to drag Drew Gooden, Donyell Marshall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas to an NBA title.
LeBron is an unprecedented combination of speed, power and skill - in basketball or probably any sport. Where Magic Johnson was a point guard in a big forward's body, LeBron is a sprinter with a hammer thrower's strength and a pole vaulter's agility.
Not since Wilt Chamberlain - another extraordinary physical specimen - has any superstar been so scrutinized for his lapses in the clutch. It's not so much that he lacks the ability to come through at the end of a playoff game. The knock on LeBron is that he seems unwilling to take over the game when his team needs him to.
It's an unusual criticism, to call out a great player for not being selfish enough.
The young LeBron certainly didn't shy away from responsibility for the outcome of games. When he was 22, he willed the Cavs past the Pistons and into the Finals with one of the most incredible individual performance in playoff history, scoring his team's last 25 points and 29 of its last 30 in a double-overtime thriller at the Palace of Auburn Hills.
He's almost always been a team-first player, one with a point guard's mentality but the body of an epic scorer. Even though he's one of the league's unstoppable forces, he so often stops himself to look for the open man rather than bulling his way to the basket and picking up easy free-throw opportunities along the way.
In contrast, Michael Jordan had to learn to trust his teammates before he could win his first championship. Jordan never lacked for certainty over who should have the ball in his hands for the last shot, not even as a freshman under Dean Smith.
It's a hell of a thing to say, but LeBron could really use a little Kobe in him. Kobe's a killer who'll let nothing stand in his way in pursuit of winning and scoring, usually in that order.
LeBron knows the ball should be in his hands, but he doesn't crave the do-or-die moment the way Kobe and MJ do.
I can't quite figure out if his tragic flaw - if it proves to be tragic - is that he sees the Big Picture or that he doesn't see the Even Bigger One.
His partnership with Wade is either a work in progress or a failed experiment. The Heat are most effective when one or the other is dominating the game, but it's not a role they've been able to share or pass back and forth.
It's probably foolish to draw any conclusions from this year's compressed season. But Miami made a point of giving Wade a number of games off, for minor injuries or to reduce the wear on his 30-year-old body, or both. The Heat were 32-17 when Wade played and 14-3 when he didn't. (Eleven of those 17 games were against lottery teams.)
No playoff series is easy, but the Heat have been given a gift by the injury gods, one that could allow them to figure out how to make things work while they storm through the decimated East. (For good measure, we can also throw in Dwight Howard's season-ending surgery and Ray Allen's ailing ankle, one that reportedly poses not merely a question of when he'll be able to play but also of whether he'll be unable to walk someday if he further damages it.)
It's a clear, smooth path to the Finals for a team that came within a few key shots of winning the title last year. If they still manage not to win it, there will be serious finger-pointing inside and outside the NBA community.
Your move, Mr. James. The spotlight awaits.