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Cavaliers cruise past Hawks
Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith argues a call against the Cleveland Cavaliers during the first quarter Friday in

CLEVELAND — The Cavaliers reached one magic number and lowered another.

LeBron James scored 27 points and Cleveland entered an elite fraternity of NBA franchises with its 60th win, scoring 14 straight points in the fourth to pull away and beat the Atlanta Hawks 93-88 on Friday night.

With their 60th win, the Cavaliers moved within one victory — or a loss by the Los Angeles Lakers — of clinching the league’s best record and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

Cleveland (60-16) became the ninth team to post back-to-back 60-win seasons. But while that’s impressive and may look nice in the record book, the Cavaliers are chasing a title they seem more prepared than ever to go after.

Mo Williams scored 24 and J.J. Hickson added 16 rebounds for the Cavs, who trailed 76-74 before James scored nine points and Williams drained a 3-pointer during Cleveland’s decisive spurt.

Josh Smith scored 20 and Jamal Crawford 17 for the Hawks, who went more than six minutes without a field goal in the fourth.

Cleveland won its 10th straight at home and improved to 34-4 this season at Quicken Loans Arena, which was at a playoff pitch throughout the game.

The Cavs dominated inside, but weren’t able to put away the up-and-coming Hawks until their late flurry. Williams started it with a short jumper and James made a layup. After a steal, James knocked down one of his “heat-check” 3-pointers to make it 81-78.

After another misfire by the Hawks, Williams made his 3 and James dropped a jumper to give Cleveland an 86-76 lead.

James then got free for a spectacular, exclamation-point dunk and was bathed with chants of “M-V-P,” an award he seems to have locked up with his finest season yet.

The Hawks, who were coming off a win at home over the Lakers, had been looking forward to this matchup.

Not only did they want to show the Cavs and a national TV audience that the win over L.A. was no fluke, but they wanted payback from a Dec. 30 loss in Cleveland that they felt was the result of a 24-second shot-clock malfunction. The Hawks filed a protest with the league that was turned down.

But while Atlanta appears to have a promising future, the Hawks can’t beat the present Cavs and have dropped nine straight games — including a sweep in last year’s playoffs — to Cleveland.

James was forced to do it mostly alone in the third quarter, when the Cavs shot just 32 percent and their offense went stagnant. He was 4 of 7 from the floor while his teammates went a combined 2 of 13, allowing the Hawks to hang around and enter the fourth trailing just 69-66.

Atlanta’s defense deserved some of the credit, but the Cavs didn’t do a good job of moving the ball and paid for it.

NOTES: Cavs F Antawn Jamison sustained a shoulder stinger in the fourth and didn’t return. ... Hawks coach Mike Woodson still can’t believe the Hawks’ protest from the Dec. 30 loss was denied. Atlanta did not get its full allotted time after a late turnover. “Every time I go back and look at that, it’s amazing they didn’t see it the other way,” Woodson said. “There’s nothing you can do about it. We’ve moved on.” ... Add Jamison to the list of those opposed to seeing the NCAA tournament field expanded to 96. “I’m old school,” said Jamison, who made it to the Final Four with North Carolina. “It’s been working for a long time. Why change it?” ... Cavs F Jawad Williams and Cleveland assistant Chris Jent had an animated conversation during a timeout in the second quarter. It wasn’t clear what Williams was upset about.

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