ATLANTA — LeBron James didn’t come close to matching his performance in Game 3.
He did enough to lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to another playoff sweep — and get in a few jabs at the Atlanta fans.
James scored 27 points and had the last word with a heckling fan at courtside as the Cavaliers finished off the Hawks 84-74 Monday night to win the second-round series in four straight.
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 61/2 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.
James made only 9 of 22 from the field, but showed his all-around brilliance with eight rebounds and eight assists. Plus, he had some help from his teammates this time, after carrying the Cavaliers almost single-handedly in Game 3.
West scored 21 points, while Williams made four 3-pointers to account for his 12 points. Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Anderson Varejao seemed to get his hand on every miss, picking up seven of his 11 rebounds at the offensive end to contribute heavily to Cleveland 15 second-change points.
The Cavaliers had another dominating night on the boards, finishing with a 48-33 edge after doubling up the Hawks (46-23) two nights earlier.
Josh Smith led Atlanta with 26 points, but the Hawks were doomed by a miserable shooting night — 23 of 73 from the field to finish at 31.5 percent. Joe Johnson added 18 points but made just 7 of 18 shots. Mike Bibby scored his only points on a 3-pointer in the final quarter. Flip Murray kept putting it up, but made only 4 of 15 for 14 points.
The Hawks actually led 22-15 after the opening period — the first time they had been ahead of the Cavaliers after any quarter in any off the four games. The seven-point edge also matched Atlanta’s biggest of the series.
But Atlanta squandered any momentum with a dismal offensive stretch to start the second quarter. The Hawks missed their first nine shots, finally hitting their first basket on Murray’s drive more than 5 minutes into the period.
Still, the Cavaliers couldn’t pull away, settling for just a 40-38 lead at the break.Notes: Late in the third quarter, James had some fun with an Atlanta police officer standing guard over the officials while they reviewed a shot by Wally Szczerbiak to determine if it was a 3-pointer. James backed away playfully when the officer shooed him away from the monitor, then eased his way close enough to get a look before the officer noticed. ... Atlanta F Marvin Williams, bothered by a sprained right wrist, made his first start of the series but wasn’t much of a factor with four points and four rebounds. Hawks C Al Horford also started but couldn’t do much because of a sprained ankle, held scoreless in 19 minutes. He missed three of his shots — two of them airballs.