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Cavs sweep past Hawks, Mavs spike Denver run

THE Cleveland Cavaliers brushed aside the Atlanta Hawks 84-74 to sweep their NBA Eastern Conference semifinal series 4-0 on Monday.

In the West, 44 points and 13 rebounds from Dirk Nowitzki helped the Dallas Mavericks derail Denver's bid for a 4-0 sweep with a 119-117 victory.

LeBron James scored 27 points as the top-seeded Cavaliers continued their dominant post-season form in becoming the first team to advance to the conference finals.

A strong defensive effort helped visiting Cleveland become the first team since the 2005 Miami Heat to sweep the first two playoff series.

"It's always good to have games like this because they help you along in the playoffs," James told reporters. "The last two games we've had a little adversity."

The Cavaliers can now enjoy a few days rest before meeting the winner of the Boston-Orlando match-up for the Eastern championship. That series is tied 2-2.

Cleveland got off to a slow start before overcoming 18 turnovers and a first-quarter Atlanta lead.

"My belief is you have to defend to win on the road, especially in the playoffs," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "Our group understands that and respects it and embraces it."

Delonte West added 21 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who are 8-0 in the playoffs after sweeping Detroit in the first round.

Josh Smith led Atlanta with 26 points and Joe Johnson had 18.

The Hawks led 22-15 after the first quarter behind Smith's 10 points, but Cleveland seized the lead in the second and gradually pulled away.

"Their defense has been great throughout this series," Atlanta coach Mike Woodson said. "They're playing at a championship level."

In Dallas, the Mavericks, who lost a controversial one-point decision to the Nuggets on Saturday, held on for victory this time as Nowitzki scored 19 points in the fourth quarter.

"We're not done yet," said Nowitzki.

Mavervicks coach Rick Carlisle called it one of the German forward's best games.

"The great ones, they somehow find the will to do it and they get it done," Carlisle said. "You know, he's one of the great ones."

Nowitzki hit two free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining for a four-point lead and the hosts kept their composure after Carmelo Anthony's 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds to play cut the deficit to one.

A free throw by Dallas' Jason Terry rounded out the scoring.

Josh Howard backed up Nowitzki with 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Anthony powered Denver, who host Game Five on Wednesday, with 41 points and 11 rebounds.


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