Cavaliers, James cruise past Hawks
The Cleveland Cavaliers shook off some rust, and then the Atlanta Hawks.
Newly crowned MVP LeBron James scored 34 points and the well-rested Cavaliers, who waited nine days between games after a first-round sweep, pulled away in the second half for a 99-72 win over the Hawks in their Eastern Conference semifinal opener last night in Cleveland.
Showing why he was voted the league's best player in a landslide, James added 10 rebounds, 3 assists, and 4 steals as the top-seeded Cavaliers won their fifth straight lopsided game in a postseason that has so far mirrored the best regular season in franchise history.
James was pulled with 4:29 left - extra down time before Game 2 tomorrow night at Quicken Loans Arena, where the Cavaliers are 42-2. He was presented with his MVP trophy before the game by commissioner David Stern.
Josh Smith scored 22 points and Mike Bibby 19 for the Hawks, who needed seven games to get past Miami and are playing in the second round for the first time in 10 years.
Perhaps out of sync because of the long layoff, the Cavaliers were sluggish in the first half, especially on offense, and didn't take control until the third quarter, when they outscored the Hawks, 28-17. As usual, Cleveland relied on its defense to turn things around after halftime.
"I think the team knew and I knew the ceremony was going to happen, but we still had a game to play," James said. "We didn't want to rain in the ceremony by not preparing ourselves the best way to come out and play. We had some lapses in the first half, but we got it going in the third and fourth quarter and took care of the game."
Nuggets 117, Mavericks 105 - Visiting Dallas toughened up and it still wasn't enough to beat high-flying Denver.
Carmelo Anthony led another fourth-quarter blitz by the Nuggets, who overcame Dirk Nowitzki's 35 points and more hustle and muscle from the Mavericks.
The Nuggets are up, 2-0, in their best-of-seven series.
Anthony scored 15 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, Nene scored 25, J.R. Smith had 21, and Chauncey Billups 18 for the Nuggets, who won for the 15th straight time at the Pepsi Center.