LeBron James knew the routine. Exchange a few handshakes. Knock out a few interviews. Start getting ready for Cleveland's next series.
ATLANTA — LeBron James knew the routine. Exchange a few handshakes. Knock out a few interviews. Start getting ready for Cleveland's next series.
This wasn't a time to celebrate.
"Why should we celebrate?" James said. "We're playing for a championship."
The Cavaliers made it 8-for-8 in the postseason, completing a second straight sweep with an 84-74 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Monday night. But Cleveland had barely walked off the court at Philips Arena when the focus shifted to the Eastern Conference finals.
Clearly, this team won't be satisfied unless it's lifting a trophy after the final game.
"An advance is an advance," said James, who scored 27 points after finishing with 47 in Game 3. "It doesn't matter if you win in four games or you win Game 7. We're happy that we're playing great basketball ... but we're not taking for granted what we're doing right now."
Delonte West and Mo Williams showed Cleveland isn't just a one-man squad, hitting huge shots down the stretch as the Cavaliers extended their NBA-record streak of double-digit playoff wins to eight. Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao pounded the boards, leading the Cavaliers to another big rebounding edge.
"I've got trust in every last one of our guys," James said.
Cleveland, which also swept Detroit in the opening round, will face either Boston or Orlando in the Eastern Conference finals.
No matter the opponent, the Cavaliers will be a lot more rested. The Celtics-Magic series is tied 2-all and will last at least through Thursday, while the top seed heads back to Ohio to relax for a few days before opening the next round at home.
"We're glad to finish this series off," reserve Wally Szczerbiak said. "Now it's time to go get our rest and get ready for the next series. We have some bumps and bruises to heal from in this series."
So do the Hawks, but they've got all summer. Joe Johnson, Al Horford and Marvin Williams were all hobbled by injuries, which eliminated any chance of fourth-seeded Atlanta giving the Cavaliers a serious challenge.
Josh Smith led Atlanta with 26 points, but the Hawks shot 23-of-73 from the field to finish at 31.5 percent. Johnson added 18 points but shot 7-of-18. Mike Bibby scored his only points on a 3-pointer in the final quarter. Flip Murray kept putting it up, but made only four of 15 for 14 points.
"It's hard to judge this team because we really weren't healthy in this series," said Hawks coach Mike Woodson, whose team made the second round of the playoffs for the first time in a decade, just four seasons removed from a 13-69 debacle. "We have to get better personnel-wise, but I couldn't be more proud of the guys than I am. We made some major strides this season."
The Cavaliers became the second team to sweep the first two rounds of the playoffs since the NBA expanded the first round to best-of-seven in 2003. The Miami Heat started with sweeps of New Jersey and Washington in 2005 before losing to Detroit in the East finals.
West scored 21 points, while Williams scored his 12 on four 3-pointers. Ilgauskas had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Varejao grabbed seven of his 11 rebounds at the offensive end to help Cleveland pick up 15 second-chance points.
"You know LeBron is going to be there, but you don't know who else is going to be there," Woodson moaned. "They've got weapons around LeBron."
Mavericks 119, Nuggets 117
At Dallas, Dirk Nowitzki scored 19 of his 44 points in the fourth quarter, including a high-arching shot with 1:05 left that put the Mavericks ahead for good and helped extend their second-round series against Denver.
Carmelo Anthony scored a career playoff-best 41 points for the Nuggets, who still lead the series 3-1 and will host Game 5 on Wednesday.
Josh Howard had 21 points and 11 rebounds, and Jason Kidd added 13 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for Dallas.
Chauncey Billups had 24 points and seven assists for Denver, and J.R. Smith had 19 points, including two terrific baskets with the shot clock about to expire in the fourth quarter.