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James scores 27 as Cavs win 84-74, sweep Hawks

LEBRON James scored 27 points and had the last word with a heckling fan at courtside as the Cleveland Cavaliers finished off the Atlanta Hawks 84-74 yesterday to win the NBA second-round series in four straight games.

Delonte West and Mo Williams showed Cleveland isn't just a one-man team, hitting huge shots down the stretch as the Cavaliers managed to extend their NBA-record streak of double-digit playoff wins to eight in a row.

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 2-2 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.

After scoring 47 points in Game 3, James struggled with his jumper in this one. Still, he came through with the Cavaliers facing their first serious challenge of the playoffs.

With the Cavaliers leading by just four, 66-62, James hit a towering 3-pointer with 6 1/2 minutes to go, lingering at the arc to pose with his right hand extended toward the arena roof.

The Hawks were still hanging around, trailing 76-72, when James drove right past Zaza Pachulia and laid it in despite getting hacked. He tacked on the free throw to complete the three-point play with 2:03 remaining.

Finally, after drawing the usual double-team, James dished off to an open Williams, who sank the clinching 3-pointer with 52 seconds left. The Hawks called timeout, their only way to extend the season, but James hovered near the middle of the court, just staring at the fan in the garish green shirt and orange pants who'd been riding him all game.

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 Dallas ahead for good on their way to a victory over Denver that extending this second-round series to a fifth game with the Nuggets leading 3-1.

Carmelo Anthony scored a career playoff-best 41 points and hit a 3-pointer with 3.1 seconds left from nearly the exact spot as his winning basket in the previous game, only this time it left Denver a point short of a tie.

Dallas' Jason Terry made a free throw with 1.1 seconds left, then missed another - perhaps intentionally - because Anthony got the rebound but didn't have a timeout left to call or enough time to get off a 90-foot heave.

The buzzer sounded and confetti fell as the teams left the court, knowing they will meet again tomorrow night in Denver. The scene was a little calmer than after the end of Game 3, although it may also wind up getting reviewed by the league office because Denver's Kenyon Martin clearly exchanged words with Dallas owner Mark Cuban.

Denver led by 14 and was scoring at will when Anthony tangled arms with Dallas' Antoine Wright. It was like an alarm clock for the drowsy crowd of 20,523 - and for the Mavericks, who all season have been at their best immediately after hitting rock bottom. It was a quality coach Rick Carlisle expected to see last night, even if it showed up more than a quarter late.

After the tussle between Anthony and Wright - the main combatants of the Game 3 finish, which the league admitted was botched by officials - Dallas kept getting close, and even tied it three times, but never went in front until Nowitzki's rainbow over Martin that hit nothing but net.


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