LeBron James sparked the Cleveland Cavaliers to an 84-74 victory over Atlanta but was in no mood to celebrate reaching the National Basketball Association Eastern Conference finals Monday.
"Why should we celebrate? We're playing for a championship," James said. "An advance is an advance. It doesn't matter if you win in four games or you win game seven."
James scored 27 points as the Cavaliers, who swept Detroit in a first round best-of-seven series, completed a sweep of the Hawks to remain unbeaten in the playoffs, the first team since the 2005 Miami heat to start a playoff run 8-0.
"We're happy that we're playing great basketball," James said. "But we're not taking for granted what we're doing right now."
Cleveland advances to face the winner between Boston and Orlando for the right to play in next month's NBA Finals. The defending champion Celtics and Orlando are level at 2-2 with game five on Tuesday (Wednesday Beijing Time) at Boston.
"We're glad to finish this series off," Cavaliers reserve Wally Szcerbiak 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."
NBA Most Valuable Player James added eight rebounds and eight assists while Delonte West added 21 points.
"Delonte was awesome. He's our glue," James said. "When he gets into attack mode, when he gets into the lane, he's one of those guys who's sort of unguardable."
Lithuanian center Zydrunas Ilgauskas added 14 points and 10 rebounds for Cleveland, which has not won by less than 10 points in the playoffs.
Cleveland, with the best defensive numbers of the playoffs, had the NBA's best regular season record at 66-16 and own a home-court edge throughout the NBA playoffs.
Josh Smith led Atlanta with 26 points while Joe Johnson added 18 points and Flip Murray contributed 14.
James sank a 3-pointer from left side to put Cleveland ahead 69-62 with 6:31 to play. After a Zydrunas free throw, Atlanta's Mike Bibby and Cleveland's West exchanged 3-pointers and the Cavaliers led 73-66.
A Mo Williams 3-pointer with 2:45 to play put Cleveland ahead 76-68 but the Hawks rallied on free throws, pulling within 79-74 on two Johnson free throws with 1:56 to play.
"Teams are going to make runs on us," James said. "There were a couple of times when it almost looked like we were coming unraveled, so I was just making sure the guys knew that it doesn't matter - we can still fight through."
Williams, who made 4-of-7 3-pointers to finish with 12 points, sank another 3-pointer off a pass from James to boost Cleveland's edge to 82-74 with 52.1 seconds remaining, driving the final dagger into Atlanta's hopes.
The Cavaliers committed 18 turnovers and hit only 54 percent from the free throw line.
"We were fortunate to win," Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said. "We ought to feel good about this win because we got it in an ugly manner."
(AFP via China Daily May 13, 2009)