CHICAGO – The Cavaliers executed, shared the ball and played good enough defense that the Bulls shot themselves not just back to Earth on Sunday, but to a crash landing.
But the intricate analysis can wait for another day. On this day, Game 4 belonged to The King.
Reality hit the United Center in the form of a vintage, dominating LeBron James performance -- one that saw James in complete control from start to the time the starters were finished. He mixed the spectacular with the standard and not only pushed the Cavaliers to a 121-98 blowout win but eliminated any notion that Derrick Rose and the Bulls may have discovered some sort of kryptonite.
Maybe next year. And maybe the Bulls' fans chanting "MVP, MVP" with Rose at the line for the second straight game wasn't the wisest idea.
James will accept his second-straight MVP award sometime in the next couple of weeks. In what suddenly became a crucial Game 4 after the Cavs no-showed the first 30 minutes of Game 3, James was all business.
He scored 37 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out 11 assists. He hit a jumpshot -- yes, a jumpshot -- from beyond 40 feet to end the third quarter. He started the game by handing out four assists before scoring a point, and by the end he'd responded to some ribbing about banking in a 3-pointer by calmly swishing another on the next possession.
He said before the game that this was "the most important game of our season." Then he played like it. And said it again afterwards.
"I kind of wanted to force my will on them tonight," James said.
He kind of started the Bulls' summer vacation, too. Underdogs don't come back from 3-1, not when the next game is on the bully's home court. Not when LeBron is uniform. Even Joakim Noah, who'd emerged as this series' unofficial spokesman and villain, acknowledged that James "is the best player on the planet."
The other day, Noah called him "pretty good."
Before the middle of Sunday's second quarter, the Cavs hadn't been much better than pretty good in this series. They were having unusual lapses at both ends, relying on the jumpshot a little too much and letting the Bulls dictate the tempo.
But James started dictating things even before the rest of the team got rolling in this one. His explosive first-quarter dunk came after a crossover dribble that fooled both Noah and Luol Deng and ended with the backboard literally shaking. His aggressiveness during that second-quarter run was then the biggest reason Bulls rookie James Johnson picked up five fouls in five minutes.
He had 17 points at halftime and 11 more in the third quarter, when he also had 4 assists and a steal.
"No one guy is going to stop LeBron James," said Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro.
Even after the third-quarter bomb -- a shot he proudly pointed out is well within his range -- James kept making plays. Besides the 3-pointers and a flurry of passes for layups to Antawn Jamison, James went flying eight rows -- literally -- with 6:44 left and his team up 21 to save a ball.
"I hate to downplay anything he does," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "But that's what this man is capable of doing."
Who does that? Better yet, what superstar does that?
Just this one.