His was an unremarkable performance for three quarters. For nothing LeBron James had done last night during those 31 minutes he spent on the floor against the Jazz looked like much.
The Cavs, though, didn't need remarkable from LeBron -- not at that point.
But without Shaquille O'Neal (he was sidelined with a bum shoulder, or so the Cavs told the media), all eyes inside The Q focused on King James, because three quarters don't decide a basketball game. And to think the Jazz, a team crippled with injuries, wouldn't make a late run would be to confuse the Jazz with the Knicks and not understand its brilliant mastermind, Jerry Sloan.
Few teams in the NBA are as well coached as Sloan's Jazz. Even without Kyle Korver, Ronnie Price and Deron Williams, perhaps the best point guard in the universe, the Jazz remained a team the Cavs would have to reckon with. The reckoning began with 1:56 left on Carlos Boozer's two free throws.
They gave the Jazz its first lead of the game, 97-96. The lead would be its last of the game, thanks to LeBron.
"He's a terrific player," said Sloan, standing outside the Jazz locker room after the buzzer sounded on a 107-103 loss. "That's what great players do -- finish you off the right way."
In this masterful performance, which Cavs coach Mike Brown called a "Rembrandt," LeBron saved his best for when it mattered most: the endgame. Until then, he had played a complementary role, allowing J.J. Hickson, Mo Williams and Anthony Parker to bask in the spotlight.
They warmed to the attention. But they aren't the players who will decide this team's destiny. They aren't the players that Brown will turn to when victory is a missed shot away from becoming into a loss.
"That's what I'm here for, " said LeBron, a crush of reporters in front of him. "I'm not afraid of the moment."
He had more than a moment, and he needed to have more. He scored the last six points for the Cavs, and he assisted on the three-pointer Parker sank before he and the other Cavaliers handed the scoring duties to LeBron.
"I was able to make some free throws," he said, sounding almost modest in trying to play down his contribution.
If that was his intent, LeBron didn't achieve it. For no one could watch those final 116 seconds inside The Q and not marvel at his performance. Yes, basketball is a "team game"; who hasn't heard those words uttered time after time over the years? But without LeBron, the "team" would surely have lost this night.
Everybody knew it, perhaps no one more than Brown. He left little doubt that LeBron was the difference-maker.
"I told him thank you, too," he said.