It's sweeps week in the NBA. Even the Cleveland Cavaliers got in on the act.
The Cavaliers completed a playoff sweep for the first time in franchise history last night, beating the Washington Wizards, 97-90, with yet another unconvincing performance, doing just enough to beat a depleted team that nearly emptied its bench in the first half.
LeBron James labored through an 8-for-22 shooting night, but made 14 of 17 free throws to finish with 31 points for the Cavaliers. He also had 11 rebounds and seven assists, including back-to-back assists to Zydrunas Ilgauskas in the decisive final minute.
Ilgauskas finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds. He and Larry Hughes (19 points) scored 18 of Cleveland's final 20 points.
The Cavaliers became the third Eastern Conference team in 3 days to finish a first-round sweep. Detroit dismissed Orlando on Saturday, and Chicago ended defending champion Miami's season on Sunday.
The Cavaliers have won only six playoff series in their history, and this series was the first time the franchise has won consecutive road playoff games. The Southeast Division, meanwhile, went 0-12 in the playoffs.
"Last year, going into the playoffs, it was all about making the playoffs," James said. "I hadn't been there in my NBA career, and [Ilgauskas] hadn't been there since his rookie season, so that was our main focus, 'Let's make the playoffs, let's make the playoffs.' We've got bigger and better things now. It's about winning the championship, and we're one step closer."
Antawn Jamison led the Wizards with 31 points.
In another game:
* At Houston, Tracy McGrady had 26 points and a career-high 16 assists, and the Rockets beat Utah, 96-92, to take a 3-2 lead in their best-of-seven series. The Rockets can clinch the series in Game 6 on Thursday in Utah. Yao Ming scored 21 points, sealing the victory with two free throws with 11 seconds left. Yao also grabbed 15 rebounds.
* NBA commissioner David Stern sees more of a need for new pro basketball teams in China than in North America.
"I think 30 teams is a nice, round number, and I would not be recommending to the NBA owners to expand," Stern said. "We will see in the next couple of years, coming out of the Beijing Olympics, the possibility of some joint venture between the NBA and someone in China about an NBA-sponsored and -branded league in China."
* Tim Duncan made his 10th straight NBA All-Defensive first team, and Spurs teammate Bruce Bowen was the top vote-getter in being selected for the seventh time. Completing the team were: Denver center Marcus Camby and guards Kobe Bryant (Lakers) and Raja Bell (Suns). *