Kevin Love scored 27 points, LeBron James hit a huge shot with 39.2 seconds to go and the Cleveland Cavaliers finished off their second straight playoff sweep, beating the Atlanta Hawks 100-99 Sunday to advance to the Eastern Conference finals.
The Hawks had one last chance to extend the series after James missed a three-pointer with the clock winding down. Atlanta got the rebound and put the ball in the hands of Dennis Schroder, who led the team with 21 points.
The speedy point guard drove into the lane but was surrounded by James and Tristan Thompson. Schroder slipped and James tied up the ball, forcing a huge mismatch of a jump ball with 2.8 seconds left. With a seven-inch height advantage, James flicked the ball toward the sideline. Paul Millsap tried to get off a desperation shot, but it was after the buzzer and didn’t go in anyway.
The Cavaliers, who opened the playoffs with four straight wins over Detroit, made short work of the Hawks in a series that mirrored last year’s conference finals. In that series, the Hawks were the top seed but lost four straight to Cleveland. This time, the Cavaliers were healthy, seeded No1 and simply too much for Atlanta down the stretch in three of their four wins. They improved to 12-0 against the Hawks in the postseason.
The Cavaliers will face the winner of the Miami-Toronto series in the conference final. Toronto lead 2-1.
Schroder put the Hawks ahead 97-96 on a drive with 1:31 remaining. But James, after having one shot blocked and missing two tip-ins, got another chance when a video review overturned a call that Cleveland had knocked the ball out of bounds. Off the inbounds pass, Matthew Dellavedova found James streaking into the lane and Millsap was called for goaltending as he went for the block.
Schroder’s next shot was blocked by Thompson, and the Cavaliers isolated James on the wing against Millsap. James stepped back and hit the jumper, pushing Cleveland ahead 100-97. Schroder scored on a drive with 34.4 seconds left and James missed a potential clinching three. It didn’t matter. The Cavaliers buckled down at the defensive end and wrapped up the series.
Love carried Cleveland in the early going, hitting one three-pointer after another as the Hawks continually left him open in the corner. He went cold in the second half but still finished eight of 15 from beyond the arc. He was fouled on one long-range shot, knocking down a free throw for a four-point play, and his only basket that wasn’t a three was a jumper with his toe on the line.
James and Kyrie Irving finished with 21 points apiece. Millsap had 19 for the Hawks.