J Pat Carter, Associated Press
MIAMI — An hour after what he called the best regular-season game he's ever played, LeBron James simply explained why this performance was like none other.
The basketball, he said, felt small as a golf ball.
The basket, to him, looked as wide as the ocean.
Best player in the game. Best game of his career. James rewrote his record book Monday night, etched his name a few different times in Miami Heat annals as well, and let the NBA know in crystal-clear terms that his MVP award won't be ceded without a fight this season. He scored 61 points, setting career- and franchise-bests, as the Heat topped the Charlotte Bobcats 124-107.
"A surreal feeling for me right now," James said.
With good reason. He made 22 of his 33 field-goal tries, becoming just the third player in the past 25 years to take that many shots and make at least two-thirds of them, with only Alex English and Shaquille O'Neal on that list. James set a career-high for field goals made, plus Heat records for points in a quarter (25) and a half (37).
And of all his feats on Monday, the most impressive might have been how he started 8 for 8 from 3-point range.
"The man above has given me some unbelievable abilities to play the game of basketball," James said before the Heat flew to Houston for a game there Tuesday. "I just try to take advantage of it every night. I got the trust of my teammates and my coaching staff to go in there and let it go."
Glen Rice scored 56 to set the Heat record on April 15, 1995, against Orlando. James' previous career best had been 56 points, on March 20, 2005, for Cleveland against Toronto.
This outing was much better, James said. Not because 61 tops 56 — but because the night he scored 56, his Cavaliers lost.
"Phenomenal, amazing, stupendous ... he reminds me of me," Heat forward Chris Bosh said afterward in an overjoyed locker room.
James had 24 points at halftime, then added 25 in the third quarter. The record-breaker came with 5:46 left, when James spun through and around three defenders for a layup that fell as he tumbled to the court.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra walked into his postgame news conference with a confession: He nearly took James out after the third quarter.
He didn't. Good call.
"He was in a great groove, obviously," Spoelstra said.
Here's how good James was on this night: Al Jefferson finished with 38 points and 19 rebounds for the Bobcats, making him just the fourth player in the past six seasons to put up a stat line like that.
No one noticed.
"You take away his 61 points," Jefferson said, "and we still had a fighting chance there at the end."
Yes, even the Bobcats were marveling at James. He was hitting from everywhere, even a 3-pointer from about 30 feet — Spoelstra joked it was from 40 — late in the third quarter, as the crowd roared and the Heat bench jumped with joy.
"Yeah, that was a designed play," Spoelstra deadpanned. "We've been working on that one for a while."
That was the moment, James said, when he knew he was in the midst of a special night.
"I felt pretty good in the first half but halftime can always kind of derail things and slow things up," James said. "But I was able to get things going once again in the third quarter and I knew it could be one of those nights."
Not "one of those nights."
Even for James, this was like no other.
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